Rep. Brian Stewart Guest Column: May 18, 2018


***Guest Column***

One of the most important measurements of a community’s success is their crime rate. Rightly or wrongly, the responsibility for crime rates often falls in the laps of our nation’s police departments. Our policemen and policewomen patrol a Thin Blue Line to serve and protect us.

Law enforcement has evolved greatly over the centuries. Starting with volunteer watchmen and part-time constabulary, policing was not centralized into civil police departments until the mid-nineteenth century. According to Eastern Kentucky University Criminal Justice Professor Dr. Gary Potter, Boston organized the first full-time police force in 1838, and was followed by New York City in 1845 and Chicago in 1851.

On May 4th 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued a Proclamation, declaring May 15th as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which May 15th falls as National Police Week, “in recognition of the service given by the men and women who, night and day, protect us through enforcement of our laws.” He also wrote, “Whereas, from the beginning of this Nation, law enforcement officers have played an important role in safeguarding the rights and freedoms which are guaranteed by the Constitution… Whereas it is important that our people know and understand the problems, duties, and responsibilities of their police departments and the necessity for cooperating with them in maintaining law and order; and Whereas it is fitting and proper that we express our gratitude for the dedicated service and courageous deeds of law enforcement officers.”

As many of you know, I am a former law enforcement officer and retired as a Sergeant with the Stephenson County Sheriff’s Police. My law enforcement background is one of the reasons I am the Republican Spokesperson on the House Judiciary – Criminal Committee.

I stand firmly with my fallen brothers and sisters. I stand firmly with their families. I stand behind the Thin Blue Line. I stand with the heroes who protect it, like Mark Dallas, a 15 year veteran of the Dixon Police Department who stopped and incapacitated a shooter at Dixon High School on Wednesday.

Thank you Officer Dallas. You are a hero. And thank you to every police officer who puts on the uniform to protect and serve us every day.

Another important measurement of the success of a community is literacy. Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan once said, “Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development… a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity... Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”

Annan’s view is corroborated by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In a 2006 report, they wrote, “Indeed, it is widely reckoned that, in modern societies, ‘literacy skills are fundamental to informed decision-making, personal empowerment, active and passive participation in local and global social community’.”

It is especially important to develop reading skills from a young age. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “More than 1 in 3 American children start Kindergarten without the skills they need to learn to read.” Raising Readers, a program in the state of Maine, reports on their website that “Developing early literacy skills makes it easier for children to learn to read.”

The National Education Association agrees. Their website says, “having kids read a lot is one of the crucial components of becoming a good reader.”
In a departmental report The Condition of Education published in 1998, the US Department of Education uncovered that “the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores.”

This is why I am happy to once again announce my annual Summer Reading Program. This Program challenges 1st through 5th graders to “Camp Out With a Good Book” and read 8 books during their summer break. Books for local library programs are acceptable and books over 150 pages may count for two books.

Once a student finishes reading all eight books, they should complete the Reading Program form. The form may already have gone home from your local school. In Freeport, the form is available in the school library or at the Freeport Public Library. It is also available at your local public library or on my website www.repbrianstewart.com. Please return the form by July 31st, 2018 to be eligible.

Kids who have read at least 8 books will be invited to participate in an ice cream party later in the summer at the Union Dairy. They will also be awarded an official certificate from the Illinois House of Representatives recognizing their commitment to reading.

As always, if you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.

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