Hastert's influence brings Daley to Wheaton College

  • Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley at a 2009 news conference. He will speak at Wheaton College on Thursday.

    Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley at a 2009 news conference. He will speak at Wheaton College on Thursday. Associated Press file

  • Richard M. Daley

    Richard M. Daley

Updated 2/28/2011 4:58 PM

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley isn't known for speaking engagements in the suburbs. But Wheaton College had a trick up its sleeve to lure Daley to campus this week: Dennis Hastert.

The retired former GOP House Majority Leader built a solid relationship with the Democratic mayor, who announced his retirement in September. Not long after that, Hastert approached Daley about speaking at the college.


"They have been good friends through several things," said Seth Norton, the director of the school's J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy. "They have worked together on various pro-Illinois, pro-Chicago initiatives and through it all, they got along pretty well."

Daley will speak at 4 p.m. Thursday at the center in what will be one of his final appearances as mayor of Chicago. Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was elected last week to succeed Daley after 22 years at the helm.

Norton said the appearance will serve to honor Daley for his career and to promote the center's message, Norton said.

"He will be reflecting on his career in public service and it turned out that it's close to the end," he said.

The connection between the school and Hastert started decades ago with Hastert graduating from the school in 1964.

Daley began his political career in the Illinois Senate in the 1970s and was Cook County State's Attorney for most of the 1980s. He won a Chicago special mayoral election in 1989 prompted by the death in office of Harold Washington.

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Daley has been re-elected five times and now stands as the longest-serving mayor of Chicago, just months ahead of his father, Richard J. Daley.

Norton said the appearance has created a buzz on the Wheaton College campus.

"Students are excited and faculty are excited," he said. "It's a great thing to have a high-profile public official here."

When Norton was a graduate student at the University of Chicago about 30 years ago, he said he met Daley for the first time and heard his passion for community involvement.

"It turned out those were the things he brought to the job," Norton said. "When I met him, he talked about the plight of the northern cities. I hope he does that again."