Hastert | My Link To The Story

The indictment of former Speaker Dennis Hastert hit the news last week. He is accused of violation of federal banking laws and lying to the FBI about it. The news came as a big surprise to most people. Hastert had a reputation as a decent and down-to-earth person.

Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Illinois from 1965-1981 before entering politics. In November 1986, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 14th district in Illinois. That district is a far southwest Chicago suburb.

At the same time, I was a high school teacher in a district north of Yorkville. I was active with the Education Office of Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Batavia. One of my teacher colleagues in that office was also a teacher at Yorkville HS. Another colleague was a teacher and wrestling fan at a neighboring district. Both of them knew Dennis Hastert.

All three of us were physics teachers and active in the American Association of Physics Teachers organization. In the winter of 1988, the AAPT held their annual winter meeting in Crystal City, Virginia, across the river from Washington, DC. We went to the meeting to present educational materials from the Fermilab Education Office and to attend various workshops. We decided to contact Hastert to see if he could give us a tour of the Capitol. He had been elected barely a year earlier and was eager to show us around.

Wikipedia Commons

It was the most amazing tour you can imagine. This was before security was tightened after 9/11. We rode the underground United States Capitol subway system connecting the Capitol and the Senate and House office buildings. Senator and former astronaut John Glenn was in the next car to ours. Hastert showed us the cloakroom, off-limits to nearly everyone, bullet holes from the 1954 shooting on the floor of the House chamber, tunnels and secret passage short-cuts, and many other unique places. Hastert was happy to see us and treated us royally.

He went on to be Speaker of the House from January 6, 1999 – January 3, 2007. I didn’t agree with him politically. But, I still held him in regard for the way he treated us on our visit. As a fellow teacher, I felt a kinship with him.

The part of his indictment connected to his alleged sexual behavior with a high school aged student troubles me deeply. It contradicts the things I assumed about him as a positive influence for young people. It goes against all of the beliefs and standards I hold dear. What a surprising and disturbing story.

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13 thoughts on “Hastert | My Link To The Story

  1. Melanie McNeil

    It is disturbing, and unfortunately leaves one more piece of evidence of people in positions of power — teachers, politicians, police — abusing that power and abusing our trust. Even when we hear stories of good acts and open hearts, it is easy to feel skeptical that we know the whole story. Aside from the individual damage, that is the societal damage they leave in their wake.

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Very true. I want to believe in the basic good of people. I guess we are all also afflicted with the possibility of choosing the opposite. I’m glad most of the people I know don’t do that.

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  2. Invisible Mikey

    Like most, whether we support or oppose Hastert’s political positions, I don’t remotely want to believe this might be true. Unfortunately, that’s also what pedophiles count on. I’m not suggesting we know the accusations are true, but you have to admit it has kind of the Jerry Sandusky aroma to it. People pay money to make nuisance lawsuits go away all the time. Why would someone pay that much, and then lie about doing it?

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  3. Mrs. P

    I understand. I had similar feelings about Bill Cosby’s allegations. Even still I have to wonder…where they true? When things like this happen…all the good the person did is tainted.

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    1. Jim in IA Post author

      I know that all of us throughout life have choices of right vs wrong. No one is perfect and chooses right all the time. We have weaknesses. Some are better at it than others. I believe most people want to choose right.

      We want to see ourselves having integrity and honesty as the guiding parts of our lives. We want to see others in the same light. We build images of ourselves and others based on what we see.

      We know and see the details of ourselves pretty well, good…bad…truthful…liar…etc. We know less about other people and their motivations. When things like this come out, it fractures the image we had of them. It can be very disturbing.

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  4. Steve Gingold

    I think many of us have some sort of facade that masks something we wish to keep private. Whether it is deviant behavior or less troublesome (like sneaking a candy bar that is forbidden fruit…my personal favorite). It is the rare person who has nothing that they wish to hide and is such a different picture of them than most of us see.
    This immediately made me think of John Wayne Gacy and the double life he led.

    Isn’t it amazing the coincidences and connections many of us have to others as in your case, Jim. He sounds like a very nice person and I am sure he was and, for the most part, still is. But the behavior is abhorrent and of course he wished to do anything he could to keep it private. Although honesty is the best policy, it would have ruined him sooner which was worth the risk to him. As Mrs. P above says, everything he did is now tainted except, ironically, the law he helped craft which snared him.

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  5. Jim Wheeler

    Thanks for this interesting insight, Jim.

    Power corrupts and secrecy facilitates it. The only safeguard I know of is as much transparency in its wielding as possible, although after watching House of Cards I know the limitations of that as well.

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