The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and former Gov. Jim Edgar are teaming up to create a new annual award in Illinois to recognize statesmanship.
"What we want to do is explore and find high quality leaders who are doing constructive things in their community and put a spotlight on this work," John Shaw, director of the Simon institute at Southern Illinois University, told The State Journal-Register on Monday.
The Paul Simon-Jim Edgar Prairie State Statesmanship Award, a joint project between the institute and Edgar, will first be granted in 2021. Plans are for it to be presented at the August meeting of the Edgar Fellows Program — leadership training that occurs on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.
The annual award will be determined each summer by Edgar and the director of the Simon institute after conferring with an advisory panel. Shaw said he expects a panel of four or five people to go through the nominees and suggest a list of finalists from which the winner would be chosen.
Edgar and Shaw will describe the new award in a Zoom conversation at 10 a.m. Nov. 16. Information about the presentation will be on the institute's website paulsimoninstitute.org.
Shaw said he's long thought about the role of statesmanship, and in conversations with Edgar, said that just like the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has a Profile in Courage award, he thought there could be an Edgar-Simon statesmanship honor.
Shaw recalled that Edgar smiled and was interested, but said Simon, as the "senior partner in this relationship," should be named first.
Late U.S. Sen. Simon was a Democrat and Edgar, now of Springfield, is a Republican, and Shaw said the award will honor a state or local official.
People will be honored for competence and for "looking around the corners and trying to figure out how to prevent irritants from becoming major problems," Shaw said. They should also be, he said, "people who see opportunities to do big and constructive things in their community and are willing to take some chances, go outside their comfort zone and take political risks to do constructive things for the long term."
"This award will show that effective leadership is not a partisan issue," Edgar said in a statement. "At a time when our nation and our country are sharply polarized and partisan tensions are running high, this award will draw from and affirm the traditions of both parties. It will identify exceptional leadership and confirm that statesmanship can be found among Republicans, Democrats and independents."
After the recipient is announced at the Edgar Fellows program, the person will be invited to give remarks at the Simon institute's annual Youth Government Day in Springfield and its annual Renewing Illinois summit in Carbondale.
Shaw said in a statement that the institute is delighted to work with Edgar in creating the award, adding it "will reflect the significant legacies of Senator Simon and Governor Edgar, both strong and independent leaders determined to advance policies that look to the future."