CONGRESSMAN-ELECT SEAN CASTEN DELIVERS VICTORY SPEECH
(Downers Grove, IL) November 6, 2018 – Tonight, Congressman-elect Sean Casten delivered inspiring remarks after being elected as the next Congressman from Illinois’ 6th Congressional District. Casten paid homage to a number of past and present leaders and thanked the many people who supported his campaign, but made it clear that he will represent the entire 6th District regardless of whether or not they voted for him or if they’ve historically had a seat at the table.
“This is an election where values won. Not Democrats per se, but values. That’s pretty inspiring,” Casten said. “That arc of history really does bend towards justice, even in our current political climate. Not because the President wants it to. Not because those who have enabled him in Congress over these last two years want it to. Not because the recent Supreme Court appointees want it to. No, it bends because millions of Americans across the country jumped up to run for office, to canvass, to march, to phone bank and tug that arc with all their might back in the right direction. And it is an awesome thing to behold.”
“The job of a representative is to represent. That is a significant responsibility and one I do not take lightly,” Casten continued. “Let us acknowledge that our opponents are not our enemies. To Peter and his family, I wish you nothing but happiness in whatever is next in your journey. My door will always be open to constituents, and that extends to you and your supporters just as you welcomed me into your office two years ago.”
Remarks, as prepared for delivery:
We did it. We won.
Dick Durbin told me that the best 6 words in politics are “Let me tell you a story”. So I’m going to start with a story.
This is a story about a guy named George Collins. An African American man born in Chicago in 1925. Grew up on the North Side. Served with the Army Engineers in World War II. Came home and became a sheriff, then an Alderman and then a United States Congressman.
He died in 1972 in a plane crash at Midway airport. He was 47 years old.
I was a year old when George Collins died and had never set foot in Chicago.
When I’m sworn into Congress in January, I’ll be 47 years old – the same age George Collins was when he died. I will also be the first Democrat since George Collins to represent the 6th District of Illinois.
Another piece of advice. This time from Bill Foster: “if you’re ever at a loss for words, just say thank you.”
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
This has been a truly amazing experience and none of this would have happened without the amazing support of thousands of volunteers who canvassed, donated, made phone calls, assembled yard signs.
Thanks to Bill and Mollie. Thanks to Linda Watkins, Stephanie Matz and the dozens of other women who are the backbone of this grassroots engine. Thanks to my sister Gillian, the goddess of social media, canvassing and – in the words of Judge Smails, “goodness”.
Thanks to Reid McCollum and all the folks at the Coalition for a Better Illinois 6th who prepared the soil before anyone thought that grass could grow in this red corner of Illinois.
Thanks to Kim Savage, Chris Hotchkin and Tinker Harvey who were working this soil long before. Thanks to all the staff who worked ridiculous hours to make this happen.
Thanks to all the spouses and children of our staff and volunteers who tolerated a lot of lonely nights over the last year. Kara, Gwen and Audrey certainly did, and I cannot wait to take a couple weeks off to just be a dad again in November. I love you all so much.
Thanks to Bill Habel at IBEW for making this hall available, and for being a sounding board and mentor to me when I was still just thinking about whether to run for office.
And thanks to the whole labor community for all your hard work on this campaign. I’ll tell you what: labor knows how to work!
But here’s who everyone in this room needs to thank. The two women who drove this whole thing. Anne and Gail: you know I love you. You know I am forever indebted to you.
And you know that the immortal words of Lord Salisbury remain true to this day: Give me a Wick and a Kalinich, and there is nothing I cannot do.
And special thanks to the captain of the ship, Greg Bales. His sound judgement, his focus, and his steady hand kept us all on track.
Reg Weaver, the former President of the National Education Association likes to say that bad people get elected when good people don’t vote. Well let me tell you something: a lot of good people voted today.
Not all of them voted for me of course, and that’s OK. Democracy works because it’s messy.
What matters is that people voted, and what matters now is that my job is to represent everyone in this district.
People who voted for me. People who voted for Peter Roskam. People who didn’t vote. People who weren’t old enough to vote. Many of those people aren’t in this room tonight, and many of those people don’t always find it easy to have a seat at the table in Washington.
But the job of a representative is to represent. That is a significant responsibility and one I do not take lightly. I hope I can live up to the example set by Senator Durbin and Congressman Foster, but I know I will never be bigger than this office.
47 years from now, you’re no more likely to remember my name than George Collins. But the dignity of the office will remain.
So first, let us pay our thanks to Peter Roskam. He has served his state and his country for 25 years. We may not have always agreed with his policies, but let us acknowledge his public service.
And let us acknowledge that our opponents are not our enemies. To Peter and his family, I wish you nothing but happiness in whatever is next in your journey. My door will always be open to constituents, and that extends to you and your supporters just as you welcomed me into your office two years ago.
And what comes next?
Well, based on the early results, it looks like this is an election where VALUES won. Not Democrats per se, but VALUES. That’s pretty inspiring.
That arc of history really does bend towards justice, even in our current political climate.
Not because the President wants it to. Not because those who have enabled him in Congress over these last two years want it to. Not because the recent Supreme Court appointees want it to.
No, it bends because millions of Americans across the country jumped up to run for office, to canvas, to march, to phone bank and tug that arc with all their might back in the right direction.
It’s that mass of human morality that won today. And it is an awesome thing to behold.
The understatement of the night is to say that there’s a lot of work to do. The restoration of decency and dignity can start in January. But tonight, let me close with two contradictory pieces of advice.
First from Barry Sanders: When you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before. This was a great win, but it was only the first step in a much larger process.
I didn’t run for office because I wanted to win an election – I ran for office because I wanted to legislate. The real work starts now. And while we all need to exhale, it is imperative that we keep this energy and love in place going forward. The grassroots led this effort, and leaders don’t quit until the work is done.
But tonight, I’m going with the advice my mom and dad gave me growing up. Life is a collection of moments. Some highs, some lows. A happy life is one that minimizes the time between the highs.
It’s also one that recognizes the next high might be farther off in the future than you think, so savor those moments while you can.
This is a pretty great night. And it’s rare. So celebrate. Celebrate this moment. Sleep in tomorrow morning.
But then let’s get back to work to make sure we get to feel this way again soon.
So here’s to you all. Here’s to Congressman Collins.
And for all of us, let’s finish this part of the night with a kickoff into the next. I’m not known for my singing, so I’m going to ask you all to help me out on this one. You know the words, please sing along.
In the key of Sam Cooke, if you please.
We’re having a party.
Dancing to the music
On the radio
Keep those records playing
Cause I’m having
Such a good time
Dancing with my baby
Keep it going. I’m going to dance.