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Rod  Blagojevich

Rod Blagojevich

Former Governor of Illinois

Biography

Rod Blagojevich has lived an interesting life, to say the least. He was the Governor of Illinois. The first Democrat elected to that office in 26 years. He was also the first Illinois Governor to be impeached. Later, he was known as Federal Prisoner number 40892–424 after being convicted on public corruption charges having to do with the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when he became President. But there’s so much more to his story… Read More >

Born to a blue-collar family in Chicago, Rod shined shoes, delivered pizzas, and worked in a meat packing plant when he was growing up. He also worked for two summers on the Alaskan Pipeline. Thanks to the sacrifice of his parents and his continued hard work, he attended and graduated from Northwestern University and went on to get a law degree from Pepperdine University. He was an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, a state representative, and in 1996 was elected to the U.S. Congress.

In 2002 his personal version of the American Dream continued as he beat long odds to become the 40th Governor of the state of Illinois. The story seldom told about that time is that as unlikely a choice as he was, he initially thrived. He created historic access to affordable healthcare for children in Illinois. Free mammograms and Pap Smears for tens of thousands of women without health insurance. Established free public transportation for every senior citizen and disabled person in the state and blocked his own party’s attempts to raise taxes in the process.

In 2008 his dream, the classic “only in America” success story, took a decided turn towards becoming a nightmare. Working to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the election of President Barack Obama, Blagojevich was charged with corruption, impeached, tried twice, and finally convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He served 8-years of the sentence before having it commuted by President Donald Trump on February 18, 2020. While having made peace with the events that caused incredible pain for his family, he maintains steadfastly, as he always has, that he is innocent.

Back home in Chicago, he is building a media company with a very specific mission: Work to restore common sense to the conversation about those issues most impacting our daily lives. Blue Suede Shoes Productions is currently working on a documentary series, a podcast, and daily content distributed on social media that encourages Americans to look beyond the talking points of a particular party and instead focus on solutions to benefit everyone.

One final note: In case the company name – Blue Suede Shoes – piqued your curiosity, Rod is perhaps the biggest Elvis fan on the planet. An Elvis trivia master, he helped pass the time in prison by fronting an Elvis tribute band. True story. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Divided We Fall: A 21st Century Civil War

The practice of politics has always been a contentious, dog-eat-dog institution, but when Rod came out of prison after eight-years, he found it had devolved into something he didn’t even recognize. Today’s politicians have completely lost sight of what’s good for America and its people; they’ve forgotten that, at the end of the day, a victory for one party or the other is meaningless unless it improves the lives of the greatest number people they serve. We’ve entered a period of no compromise and a winner takes all mentality that insists “I’m right and you’re wrong 100% of the time.” Both political parties are discrediting foundational institutions, leaving us out of balance and trusting of no one. We’re barreling towards a conflict of monumental proportions in this country that raises the real question: can our democracy survive?

Our Cities: A War Zone of Our Own Making

The all or nothing, no compromise approach being demonstrated by our elected leaders has permeated our society in ways that have led to an overall lack of respect and intolerance for one another. In the area of crime, we’re confronted with horrific incidents of police brutality, but the remedy posited by many of those concerned is to defund the entire police force. Incidents of violent crime, fueled in part by the pandemic, have soared in most American cities as local governments shockingly decriminalize “lesser offenses” or just choose not to enforce laws as they reallocate resources to address the surge. Lacking in the discussion is common sense. We move from one extreme to the next as opposed to taking the broader context that history and experience can provide to lead us to reasonable and lasting solutions. Those impacted by crime are becoming increasingly siloed and hardened in positions that lose sight of the rights and concerns of others and the long-standing facts that show cooperation between law enforcement, communities, and victims, provide the most impactful answers.

The Death of Common Sense & Critical Thought

Having spent 8 years in prison gave Rod an awful lot of time to think and he realized a few things. Things like, increasingly, we are a people whose lives are governed by the algorithms of our favorite social media platforms and the extremism of our chosen political party. Too many of us are now ceding our free will to entities and politicians that, by all indications, are serving their own interests often to the detriment of our own. Conversations between family members and neighbors that used to flesh out the facts and help shape opinions are now, too often, avoided at the risk of setting off near violent confrontations over who’s right and who’s wrong. We don’t think on our own enough anymore, ponder the issues through multiple prisms of influence and willingly look for holes in our accepted theories. Even more alarming, we’re not teaching our kids to think critically, scientifically. The great thinkers of our time would put forth their theory and welcome the very feedback that could disprove it. Why? Because it is the only way to get at the best version of truth. The very best remedy for what ails and the best ideas to make all lives better lived.