An initiative supported by:
It’s been four decades, but Jim Edgar often regional cooperation as participants – diverse in race,
reflects on that character-honing moment. gender, political persuasion and geography – assume
As a young aide to W. Russell Arrington, the Senate more influential roles.
Republican leader and most dominant force in the
Illinois General Assembly, Edgar tried to comfort his There will be 40 up-and-comers selected annually
distraught boss at the close of a legislative session by to become Edgar Fellows. They will participate in
suggesting the impasse on a critical transportation issue an intense four-day executive leadership-training
actually might benefit the leader politically. “That’s not program. Among their teachers will be Governor Edgar
the point, Jim,” replied Arrington. “We’re here to solve and others who have excelled in the public arena—
problems, and we didn’t solve the problem.” practitioners as well as researchers and scholars. The
fellows will learn about leadership skills, strategies and
When Edgar became Illinois’ 38th governor in 1991, he expectations through sessions designed to inform and
inherited what was then the largest budget deficit in inspire. In addition to the workshop, the participants
the state’s history. Eight years later, he left a $1.5 billion will be afforded opportunities to continue their
cushion for his successor. The Republican chief executive education through social networking and other forms
worked with Democratic legislative majorities for six of of high-tech communication. They also will be invited
his eight years in office to erase the deficit, balance the to join sessions designed to brief them on crucial policy
budget and move the state forward in education and issues.
other key areas. The downstate governor worked on a
bipartisan basis with representatives and senators from Edgar Fellows will bear no cost for the workshop
every corner of Illinois – including the four legislative except for transportation to and from the gathering.
leaders from the Chicago metropolitan area. The initiative will be funded primarily through an
energetic fund-raising effort.
Now he wants to share the lessons from his
distinguished career in public service with emerging The Edgar Fellows Program will build upon, expand
leaders from public and private sectors throughout and more sharply focus successful training programs
the state. Crises in state finance and other crucial areas conducted by the Institute of Government and Public
frequently result from crises of leadership – paralysis Affairs at the University of Illinois. It will also feature
caused by political posturing and provincialism. even greater involvement by Edgar, who has been a
Edgar’s initiative will focus on the requirements and distinguished fellow at the institute since he left the
responsibilities of leadership and governing. It will governorship.
emphasize the need to forthrightly address major
policy issues without permitting partisan, ethnic and
regional rivalries to trump statesmanship. It is designed
to influence attitudes and foster mutual understanding.
It holds the promise of facilitating bipartisan and cross-
“The Edgar Fellows Program is an opportunity for me to
share the lessons I learned throughout my public service
with future leaders.” Former Governor Jim Edgar