LaHood addresses North Peoria students on education

DeWayne Bartels
U.S. Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood speaks to students at St. Vincent de Paul School in advance of President Obama's speech on education to the nation's school children.

U.S. Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood wrapped up a 10-day vacation in Peoria this morning at Banner Elementary school and St. Vincent de Paul school talking about the importance of education.

LaHood’s two talks came before a scheduled address by President Obama to the nation’s children on education in schools.

LaHood said, following his remarks this morning at St. Vincent de Paul, all the cabinet secretaries had been asked by the White House to make speeches concerning education.

“What you’re doing in terms of getting a good education is very, very important,” LaHood said in his opening remarks.

His message was one of student’s responsibility to work hard to get a good education, mirroring the remarks the president was scheduled to give this morning.

LaHood told hundreds of St. Vincent de Paul students that in America with an education one can do anything they chose.

“Your job is to work hard, listen to your teachers and listen to your parent’s,” LaHood said.

Later, he added, “Be a good reader. Learn your math. Then you can do anything ... Study hard, and you’ve got it made.”

Following his remarks, and before the president’s speech, LaHood said he wanted to talk to students to let them know that he, who had come from very humble beginnings in Peoria’s East Bluff, had risen to a position of power, and, that they could, too.

“I want these kids to know I’m from Peoria,” he said.

He said his main message is that it is not hard to succeed if students get an education.

On the topic of criticism from conservative Republicans, LaHood said, he felt the criticism that the president is trying to indoctrinate students with his speech had been muted.

LaHood, himself, found some criticism waiting for him at St. Vincent de Paul, in the form of two protesters.

Peorian Mike Schwerer held a sign reading that LaHood was a RINO — Republican In Name Only.

“He doesn’t espouse the Reagan philosophy of small government and pro-capitalism,” Schwerer said. “I feel Ray sold out his Republican principles.”

But, not all his criticism was aimed at LaHood.

Schwerer also carried a sign saying propaganda should be kept out of the classroom, referring to Obama’s speech.

He said the text of the speech seemed “innocent enough,” but then added he would also not invite Lenin to speak to school children.

St. Vincent de Paul Monsignor Jason Gray said about 10 parents had called the school concerned about their children seeing the president’s speech.

“I think the main focus of the speech is education. I don’t think there’s a controversy there,” Gray said.