State senator returns to his alma mater to meet with the students
Fifth through eighth graders at St. Raymond School in Mount Prospect enjoyed a rare treat recently when state Sen. Matt Murphy, an alumnus of the parochial grade school, returned to his alma mater to talk to the students about both the mechanics and the politics of being an Illinois state lawmaker.
"Talking to schoolchildren is actually among the most fun things we get to do as state legislators," Murphy told the Daily Herald.
"I feel that it is important to show them that there is a good side to politics and to encourage them to get involved if they are interested."
Murphy, a Palatine Republican, told the St. Raymond audience during his Feb. 20 visit, "If you don't have people in politics and government that are there for the right reasons, people suffer. So if you think you're interested, stay interested. Figure out what you believe in and how you can make a bigger impact and some day jump in and run yourself.
"There isn't any reason why every single one of you can't have an impact and hopefully for some of you, that will mean being future leaders of this state," he continued.
The visit to St. Raymond was special, Murphy admitted, because he was visiting his own grade school and he hadn't been back in many years.
He said he was impressed with the quality of the St. Raymond students' questions, hypothesizing that the recent election of Barack Obama and the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich soon afterward stirred up a lot of interest among students.
"Why did I vote 'yes' to impeach Governor Blagojevich?" Murphy said in response to a student question. "I felt he abused his office in a lot of ways. One example - he had promised to give $8 million of taxpayer money - money your moms and dads send to the state out of the money they make - to Children's Memorial Hospital. They needed that to take care of the kids they have at the hospital."
"Well, he later threatened to withhold the money and not give it to the hospital unless the guy who runs the hospital gave him $50,000 for his campaign fund," Murphy continued. "And I don't know about you, but I didn't want a guy being governor who was willing to hold sick kids ransom."
Murphy also explained how he got into politics.
"From the time my parents took me to Washington, D.C., when I was in seventh grade, I was drawn to the idea of making an impact," he said.
But he put his ambitions on the back burner while he attended St. Viator High School, the University of Iowa and John Marshall Law School. Then at a neighborhood party when he was 30, he started talking to his area's precinct captain, who convinced him to become involved in local politics.
"I found that I loved knocking on doors and talking to people and one thing led to another," he recalled. Murphy was elected to the Illinois Senate in 2006 and re-elected in 2008. Today, he splits his time between his work downstate in the General Assembly and his part-time work as a lawyer.
"It was a pretty interesting assembly," said Cole Wagner, a sixth grader from Mount Prospect. "It was actually one of the best learning experiences I have had. Some friends and I are actually considering going to Springfield for the page-for-a-day program Senator Murphy talked about."
Students can apply to their state legislators to spend a day in the House or Senate as an honorary page, spending time on the floor and following their legislator through their day.
While the 12-year-old said that he really enjoyed delivering yard signs for the Obama campaign, he does not envision politics in his own future.
"I don't like to give speeches. It makes me nervous,"he said. "So I don't want to be a politician myself."