Blagojevich To Teens: ‘You Must Get Involved’

OAK BROOK, Ill. (CBS) — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich told high-schoolers attending the Junior Statesmen of America convention in Oak Brook Saturday that politics needs them.

“You must get involved and run for office and make things better,” he said.

Blagojevich said that the nation’s youth have idealism and ideas, elected Barack Obama president and cannot afford to sit back next year.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports

The ex-governor made it clear he bears no ill will toward billionaire Donald Trump, who fired Blagojevich after four weeks on the reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“Look, I’ve been fired before,” Blagojevich said, drawing mild laughter from the crowd. “But he’s the only guy who’s fired me whom I really like. I think he has a tremendous amount to offer. He’s not a politician. He’s a man who’s hugely successful, a billionaire probably many times over, who’s also had his share of adversity.”

One problem — Trump is a Republican, and Blagojevich is not. But he said he will be “rooting” for Trump anyhow.

He shared much harsher opinions of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), Illinois Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and successor Pat Quinn, whom Blagojevich branded “a liar.”

Blagojevich told the students that Illinois’ tax increases will hurt its economy, said “conflict is good” in politics and said the students represent the future, although he said he would not want his daughters to become politicians.

“You will get your heart broken,” Blagojevich said. “But you pick yourself up and you never quit, you never give in. It’s the adversity that shapes who you are.”

He said he is “big on second acts,” and said his desire is to win vindication in the courts on corruption charges and return to Springfield to document what he termed “the baloney in the system.”

Blagojevich said Illinois has no need to cut education spending in the coming fiscal year by $200 million, despite its financial crisis.

Madigan and House Republican leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) proposed the cuts in the past week. Quinn has called for a $225 million increase in education spending.

Blagojevich said there is plenty of money in the state’s restricted funds that could be raided to avoid a decrease, which would cost the Chicago Public Schools alone $40-60 million.

Several student leaders said Blagojevich did not address the questions they asked and went on at length about “tangents.”

He also participated in a “Jeopardy!” styled quiz in which students paid to compete against him. The former governor had to be told repeatedly to wait till the question was asked before pounding the gavel that took the place of a buzzer.

He said he retains confidence in his legal team, even though he admitted that he has not paid them in six months. He was convicted last year of lying to the FBI, but jurors deadlocked on 23 other counts. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in his retrial on April 20.

  • Ken

    My daughter is at this event. I question why he ( formal Governor) would be allowed to speak to our future leaders.Does being corrupt matter any more. Our kids need to hear from leaders and future leaders with new ideas. Lets admit it the current system do not work and is failing our nation daily.

    Time for fresh blood and new ideas… Kids it is your turn make America great again!

    • Ralph

      My daughter is at this event as well. I am not a fan of Rod’s, but let’s give some credit to our children for keeping an open mind. One can’t make progress without knowing what needs to be fixed.

    • Todd

      He was not only corrupt, he’s a convicted felon, awaiting sentencing, and about to be retried all over again. One juror out of twelve just didn’t get it the first time around. I don’t think he will be so luckky again!!!

  • Ralph

    Does anyone really believe Rod is innocent?

  • Tanya Livingston

    Patti is the real guilty one. Her relationship with KK Bio Sciences, DCFS Contracts for blood tests and her real estate deals are all connected. She received $100K in sales commissions from the owner of a bank who’s wife owned KK Bio Sciences. They compromised the safety of thousands of Illinos children.

  • Joe Patroni

    Is he still licensed by the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission?

  • Donna

    My daughter was there, too/ They should have found a speaker that would inspire, not disgust, the students.

  • JSA1

    As a student, I have to say that I found Blagojevich to be very inspiring. Not for his actions, but for how clearly he portrayed the humanity of the political process. So often in society we have a tendency to alienate the “bad guy” while forgetting that all of us are susceptible to corruption. Some simply have more access to power, and therefore more impact than others. Few students walked away from the event with the impression that Blago’s charges should be dismissed but many walked away inspired. Seeing propensity of human error in politics showed us the importance of becoming involved in the political process, if only to serve as a check on the actions of others. When Blagojevich said that he would not want his children to become involved in politics but we should get involved he was not being hypocritical. He was emphasizing the point that he drove home for students throughout the convention, politics is not easy work and because of this it is not a fate that should be wished on anybody, but our drive and capability to influence the process is very honorable for this reason.

    • Sarah

      Get off the Kool-Aid fool

      • Tina


  • Diersen’s News Clips and Upcoming Events; April 3, 2011 « Cao2's Weblog

    […] Blagojevich To Teens: ‘You Must Get Involved’ […]

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