Simon–Edgar Statesmanship Award

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The annual Simon-Edgar Statesmanship Award is presented to a former or current elected state or local government official in Illinois who has demonstrated a pattern of public service characterized by vision, courage, compassion, effectiveness, civility, and bipartisanship.

We asked Illinoisans to nominate a state or local elected official who has displayed this kind of exceptional leadership. We created the Simon-Edgar Statesmanship Award to shine a spotlight on remarkable public service that is taking place in our state and local communities. Therefore, those holding federal office – in the U.S. House and Senate, for example – are not eligible.

Former House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie Selected As Recipient of 2022 Simon-Edgar Award

Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar and John Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, announced Tuesday, August 9, 2022, that former House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie is the 2022 recipient of the Paul Simon-Jim Edgar Statesmanship Award.

Edgar and Shaw applauded Representative Currie’s four decades of forceful, creative, consequential, and civil leadership in the Illinois General Assembly.

Representative Currie served in the General Assembly from 1979 to 2019 and was the House Majority Leader from 1997 to 2019. She helped create Illinois’ Earned Income Tax Credit, championed clean air and water legislation, pushed for the first Freedom of Information Act, advocated for same sex marriage legislation, crafted critical school funding and juvenile justice reforms, and fought to end the death penalty in Illinois.

“As one of the six governors who worked with Representative Currie, I have always been impressed with her passion, decency, and toughness,” Edgar said. “Barbara and I did not always agree on policy issues, but I’ve always respected her dedication to public service and her idealism.”

Shaw said that Representative Currie’s career illustrates that leaders with strong partisan perspectives can best serve the public when they seek common ground and work with leaders from the other party and with independents.

“Some of the most successful and celebrated statesmen and stateswomen in American and Illinois history have been strong partisans who have had the ability to set partisanship aside and advance the public interest,” Shaw said. “This is a defining feature of statesmanship and a hallmark of Representative Currie’s career.”

Edgar and Shaw said Representative Currie was respected on both sides of the aisle for her vision, compassion, effectiveness, bipartisanship, civility, and tenacity.  

A pioneer for women legislators, when Representative Currie entered the General Assembly in 1979 only slightly more than 10% of the members were women and no women held senior leadership posts. Her 40-year career in the General Assembly remains the longest of any woman in the history of Illinois.

“Representative Currie was easily one of the most approachable and well-informed policymakers on either side of the aisle who, despite the often bare-knuckles style of Illinois politics, never lost her ability to reach across the aisle to win consensus on the important issues of the day,” said a former journalist who was among those who put forth her nomination.

One of her former colleagues praised her civility and effectiveness. “Even in the most difficult floor debate, while someone is hurling invective at her, she’d smile and disarm the person with her amazing wit.”

The annual Simon-Edgar Statesmanship Award is presented to an elected state or local government official in Illinois who has demonstrated a pattern of public service characterized by vision, courage, compassion, effectiveness, civility, and bipartisanship.

The Simon-Edgar Award shines a spotlight on remarkable leadership that is taking place in our state and our communities, inspiring current and future public servants to act in the best traditions of Illinois.

Jim Edgar was the 38th governor of Illinois. He founded the Edgar Fellows Program at the University of Illinois’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs. John Shaw is the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and is the author of five books on history and politics.