Mike Lawrence contends that what many Illinois residents are calling a state budget crisis is really a leadership crisis.
"Leaders have let us down by not dealing squarely with the state economy," he said, adding that neither the media nor the public has held public officials as accountable as they should have.
Lawrence, former press secretary and senior policy adviser to Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar for nearly a decade, will discuss his topic at length when he presents "Illinois in Crisis: How Our Leaders Have Failed Us and How We Have Failed Ourselves." Admission to his address, set to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, in Eastern Illinois University's Buzzard Hall Auditorium, is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the presentation.
Lawrence comes to the EIU campus as the third speaker in the Edgar Lecture Series, established in 2007 by Edgar and his wife, Brenda, in continuing support of their alma mater. The series allows the university to host two speakers a year -- one in the fall and one in the spring. Lectures are to focus primarily on state government and shall address current issues in state government and their historical implications.
The Edgars personally launched the series, with the former governor speaking a year ago and Mrs. Edgar taking her turn behind the lectern in Spring 2008.
Lawrence, who retired in October as director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said he was honored to be invited as the series' third speaker and looks forward to seeing the former governor in attendance.
Lawrence joined Edgar's staff after working as a journalist for 25 years. During his newspaper career, he specialized in Illinois state government and politics. He served stints as managing editor and editorial page editor of the Quad-City Times and wrote a political column that was syndicated to more than 40 Illinois newspapers.
Lawrence capped his newspaper career as chief of the state capital bureaus for Lee Enterprises and the Chicago Sun-Times.
He was honored by the Associated Press Editors Association for exemplary service to other journalists and newspapers in Illinois and received the Paul Simon Award for Public Service from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Lawrence was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1998 from Knox College, his alma mater.
He served on the Illinois Courts Commission, which decides cases in which disciplinary charges have been brought against judges. He and the former president of Governors State University were the first non-judges appointed to serve on that commission. He also served as one of only three members on the State Board of Ethics.