It means driving 60 miles through slop and ice to attend a lengthy graduation that will not include my own actual child. Am I in? Of course. There is no place I'd rather be on the Saturday morning before Christmas than Bradley University's midterm ceremonies at the Peoria Civic Center . . . as long as the commencement speaker is the current U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
It means driving 60 miles through slop and ice to attend a lengthy graduation that will not include my own actual child.
Am I in?
There is no place I'd rather be on the Saturday morning before Christmas than Bradley University's midterm ceremonies at the Peoria Civic Center . . . as long as the commencement speaker is the current U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
That's because I love Patrick Fitzgerald.
I have long said I would have his child, if necessary. The hysterectomy and the fact we're both married are slightly problematic. (We're both Catholic, too, which pretty much rules out the in vitro option.) Even so, if there's anything I can do for the guy, I'm in. My son feels the same way about Alfonso Soriano. But I'm a bigger fan of justice than of the Chicago Cubs.
You've got to love Patrick Fitzgerald.
"Eliot Ness with a Harvard degree" is one way he's been described, after Chicago's legendary gang buster. But Fitzgerald does not just go after the mob. He pursues crime wherever it goes. Lately, the trail has led through the halls of government. This is the guy responsible for having Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrested. And that was just last week.
Fitzgerald has tracked terrorists, including al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey observed during 9-11 hearings that the country would have been better off if Fitzgerald had been briefing President Bush instead of the CIA. In fact, the workaholic native New Yorker wasn't particularly excited about getting the top job in Chicago. But then-Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (no relation) had been advised he was the guy to clean up this state and got Bush to appoint him. Patrick Fitzgerald flew into Illinois on Sept. 11, 2001.
Rather than saying, "I told you so" to those who had ignored many warnings, he started digging in our ever-rich dirt. He investigated media baron Conrad Black. He investigated the Chicago machine, getting dozens of people charged, including city employees. He investigated state corruption all the way up to former Gov. George Ryan. And he threw a New York Times reporter in the clink as part of a federal investigation that led all the way to the White House. (Bush pardoned Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, before Libby went to jail.)
And now, Blagojevich.
How could you not love this guy?
Many people do. Web sites have offered Fitzgerald mugs, boxer shorts and thongs. People magazine once listed him among the sexiest men alive, alongside Viggo Mortensen and Matthew McConaughey. Yet Fitzgerald himself apparently is embarrassed by any attention, much less all this slobbering. He rarely speaks to the press, or anywhere the press can catch him.
"I don't think he does very much of this sort of thing," says federal Judge Michael Mihm, who enticed the prosecutor to speak Saturday for Bradley.
Considering there are only three personalities I cared to meet in 2008, I figure I'll give it the old college try. Unfortunately, I have to settle for a focused 10-minute speech. Oh, well. Even if Bruce Springsteen is unavailable, I'm still batting .500. I did meet Uno, the beagle who won the Westminster Dog Show. And there's no way Patrick Fitzgerald was ever going to let me pat him on the . . . snout.
Terry Bibo can be reached at email@example.com or (309) 686-3189.