Casten takes Congressional oath in Wheaton, committing to freedom and equality
Freshman U.S. Rep. Sean Casten's speech Saturday, as he took the oath of office before a local audience, was about the Constitution, the power of words, the consent of the governed and what he sees as the two key elements of America's founding document: freedom and equality.
Casten, a 47-year-old Democrat of Downers Grove, was sworn in Saturday at the DuPage County administration building in Wheaton to represent the 6th U.S. Congressional District, filling a seat formerly held by longtime Republican Rep. Peter Roskam.
He said it's symbolic to take an oath to the document filled with words that set up the American democracy.
"We're a country of laws," he said. "And the survival of our nation depends on nothing so much as our willingness to be bound by our words."
After Casten placed his hand on a copy of the Constitution and affirmed he will support and defend it, he asked those in his audience of nearly 400 to do the same, committing to adhere to the rights the document provides.
"We are entitled to freedom no less than we are entitled to equality," Casten said. "My responsibility and our responsibility is to live up to that promise."
Sworn in to his seat on Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C., Casten said he wants to tackle issues including climate change and universal health care.
But his tenure, along with the tenure of new Democratic 14th District U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood of Naperville and the 61 others who joined Congress with them, has been marked by the government shutdown that concluded Friday.
That drew a joke or two from other speakers during the hourlong ceremony, especially Democrat Jack Franks, McHenry County Board chairman, who remarked that since Casten joined Congress "nothing has happened."
Yet other leaders who spoke in advance of the keynote speaker, Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, noted the need for collaboration to move on from the midterms, with blue or red affiliations in the back seat. These included Republican DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin and Democratic DuPage County Judge Linda Davenport.
"Once you win, that is the end of the party," Davenport said. "We are Americans first, no matter what."
Durbin focused his remarks on a need to work together to govern, using the talents new members such as Casten -- a clean energy entrepreneur -- bring to the federal table. "Today we gather for a celebration. Tomorrow we gather with our eyes focused on the future ..." Durbin said, "to make DuPage County a better place to live, Illinois a better state and the United States of America continue to be, with God's blessing, the greatest nation on earth."
The ceremony drew roughly 45 other elected officials from both parties across the C-shaped 6th District, which stretches from Naperville to Tower Lakes in parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. Groups of veterans, grass-roots organizers and air traffic controllers also attended.