Only a hard-hearted Democrat could have a dry eye after watching former Illinois Gov. Rod “Blago” Blagojevich’s sad, joyful, prayerful, humble and triumphant homecoming today when he spoke to a crowd of supporters and news media in front of his house after being released from prison four years early by President Donald Trump.
If you ever wondered how Blagojevich had been elected governor twice, listening to him was all the explanation you needed. Without a teleprompter, without a written speech, he spoke from the bottom of his heart for nearly twenty minutes with wisdom, insight and humility.
At the beginning he said, “First of all, the obvious, I want to say … we want to express our most profound and everlasting gratitude to President Trump. How do you properly thank someone who’s given you back the freedom that was stolen from you. He didn’t have to do this. He’s a Republican president. I was a Democratic governor, and doing this there’s nothing to help his politics. President Trump is a man who is tough and outspoken but he also has a kind heart and this is an act of kindness, and I also believe it’s the beginning of a process to turn an injustice into a justice.”
This was just the first of several times when Blagojevich, joined by his wife Patti and his two daughters, humbly and sincerely thanked the president for commuting his sentence.
He showed himself to also be a man who is dedicated to fighting for the prison population he left behind.
“The buildings behind that fence where inmates live and sleep are squalid places. They’re cold and dark like tombs. There were about 900 inmates there. Drug dealers, cartel members, bang bangers, bank robbers. There were men, there were committed murder, con artists, a lot of sex offenders, about 2% of the population were in the so called white collar category. For most of my time there my home was a six foot by eight foot prison cell with four cement walls, a big heavy iron door that can shut you in, a small window with bars on it, and a bunk bed. I slept on the top bunk. Often late at night I would look through that window and past those bars out into the night sky and I’d think of home. I’d think of my children. I’d think a Patti. Sometimes I could almost feel her near me.”
He also thanked God several times for giving him the strength to survive his ordeal
There was even a bit of pathos in the press conference, as Blago kept dabbing at his chin with a tissue where he had cut himself earlier in the morning.
“It’s been a long long journey,” he said. “I’m bruised and I’m battered, I’m bloodied. Its been a long time since I’ve shaved with a normal razor, and it takes a little practice.”
That is not practiced and fake. That is an authentic man who spent 10 years in prison, and now is a bit shellshocked.
Although he was a contestant on Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice,” he has no personal relationship with the president, yet he recognized that President Trump is working hard for the forgotten man and woman.
“One of the great ironies of history,” hr said, “is that so far up till now in the history of our country, no one has done more, or is currently working to do more to fix this broken and racist criminal justice system than President Trump and [his son-in-law] Jared Kushner.”
Blagojevich’s address should rank among the very best of extemporaneous public speaking by a politician in the last century, and the last five minutes in particular deserve a long life for their inspiring message. You can read them here, but I encourage you to watch the video attached, as it is truly a moment to experience for yourself.
“I’d like to say something about adversity, and I’d like to direct my remarks to all of my fellow underdogs out there who find themselves up against powerful forces and long odds. To anyone facing hard circumstances who’ve suffered loss, are hurting, or who, like me, have hit rock bottom. You may be down. All your hope may seem to have disappeared. The road you have to travel is a long one, and home, that’s where you want to be, is so far away you can’t even see the flicker of a light at the end of the tunnel, but don’t give up. Don’t give up. Think of the people you love.
“Think of the people you love. That’s where you’ll find your purpose. My love for my family and my faith in God is what sustained me during this long and seemingly never-ending trial. It gave me purpose to stay strong and along with Patti to try to set the right example for our daughters. To show them that when adversity enters your life, even when your calamity comes on like a whirlwind and just about everything has been taken away from you and your heart’s broken, don’t quit. Fight, fight, keep fighting and persevere in storms and through the dark passages. And when you find yourself alone, all alone in the lonely wilderness because it is there in that lonely wilderness where we are tried and tested, that we must rise to our circumstances. We must rise above our circumstances and dare to dream.
“It is not an ending, but a beginning where out of weakness we are made strong. Every mile I ran, every pushup I did, every book I read, every word I wrote was my way of fighting back. My way of using the time in the wilderness to prepare for a better day, waiting in the shadows, waiting for justice, waiting and hoping.
“So live in faith, hope and love. Vivi con fe esperanza y amor. And if you have to, take a stand. And don’t be afraid, you’re not alone, you never go alone. It is so often the case that in the sadness of life, we look for God. My faith in him turned despair into hope and made me strong, trusting that one day through the grace of God, He would turn darkness into light and lead me home. Thank you.”
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