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The Ironic George Ryan

Last Sunday was a day full of irony. NBC Chicago reported that Congressman Bobby Rush invited George Ryan, a convicted felon and dishonored Illinois governor, to speak at a service at Rush's church honoring the recently deceased international hero of human rights, Nelson Mandela. Both Ryan and Mandela spent time in prison. Mandela spent 27 years locked up for seeking justice for the citizens of South African. Ryan spent five years in a federal facility for obstructing justice, but that is not the irony I am thinking of.

Yes, Ryan has paid his debt, and in the spirit of Mandela, one should be forgiving to those who have caused one harm, but this is Illinois. It is not unusual for our convicted politicians to rise to a level of celebrity while others continue business as usual.

Take, for instance, Ryan's newfound friend. Last week the Sun-Times reported that he sponsored a million-dollar grant for a technology project in the Englewood neighborhood. The project never got off the ground and now the money is unaccounted for. Doesn't Rush have some duty to to assure that the money is or was responsibly spent? To me, what is ironic is that Rush invited a convicted felon known for abusing taxpayer money to speak at Rush's church so soon after the Sun-Times report.

Ryan's connection to Mandela also holds some irony. While Illinois governor, Ryan took a stance against the death penalty and Mandela contacted him to encourage him to stand by his certitude. Ryan did do just that and even visited Mandela in South Africa, possibly to gain more inspiration.

What is ironic is that in January 2000, the Sun-Times exposed one of Ryan's obstructions while he was serving as Illinois' secretary of state. He covered-up the theft of state revenue from the Naperville driver's license examining station. The stolen money was allegedly to be used as donations for the Citizens for Ryan campaign fund. The day after the Sun-Times article was published, Ryan announced that he was placing a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. We can be certain Ryan's motives did not matter to a man like Mandela, but to those of us in Illinois, Ryan's actions were ironic.

During Sunday's service, Ryan described Mandela as "a towering figure of courage and tenacity." Another irony is that Ryan is tenacious like Mandela. In October 2007, roughly one month before he began serving his federal sentence, Ryan told me "I got screwed." He certainly has been tenacious about his innocence.

Mandela wrote an autobiography as an inspiration for all those who seek justice. Now Ryan says he too is writing a book. I wonder if his autobiography will express the same humility and courage of Nelson Mandela.

That would be beyond ironic.

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Ed Hammer is a retired police captain and author of the book One Hundred Percent Guilty. He can be reached through his website.

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Previously by Ed Hammer:
* George Ryan's Park Bench
* George Ryan's Dogs and Ponies
* George Ryan's Other Jailhouse Interview
* Bugging The Chicago School Board
* Cop vs. Teacher
* Signs of Change
* Pols vs. Teachers
* The Terre Haute Redemption
* Rahm's War On Teachers
* About Those Indicted Nurses
* Body Language Bingo: A Guide To Watching The Presidential Debates
* George Ryan's Day Of Independence

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See also: Honoring A True Illinois Hero.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on December 17, 2013


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