Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Wrapping Up the Year

By Shawn Healy
This post represents my final musings of the year, and coincides with the last edition of Freedom and the First Amendment in the News. What a ride it has been since the new year dawned, from the thrilling caucus and primary season that began on a cold January day in Iowa, to the historic victory of President-elect Barack Obama on November 4. The most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression strangled our nation's well-being by early fall, and the revelations of alleged wrongdoing by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and his associates just last week further tainted the political culture in the state I call home.

As we look forward to 2009, the inauguration of our nation's first African-American president takes place on January 20th. Perhaps it's fitting that the last president from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, will be honored throughout the year on the bicentennial of his birth, February 12, 1809. Surely there will be a great deal of emphasis placed on Obama's first 100 days, a period made famous by another president Obama is often compared to, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who entered office at a time of economic crisis and inspired a nation to persevere and eventually emerge stronger on what came to be known as the Great Depression.

Closer to home, the impeachment proceedings against Governor Blagojevich are certain to move forward, alongside the federal investigation that spawned the criminal charges that inspired the former. There will be a special election in the 5th Congressional District as Congressman Rahm Emmanuel has accepted Obama's invitation to serve as his Chief of Staff. Perhaps simultaneously, the jockeying behind Obama's now vacant Senate seat will result in either a controversial appointment by Blagojevich or his successor, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn, or a statewide special election instead.

Before long, candidates will begin testing the waters for a run at statewide office in 2010, and the Governor's mansion and the aforementioned Senate seat will stand among the most lucrative prizes. The fallout from the Blagojevich scandal is sure to reshape the complexion of an already crowded field.

The media industry itself will continue to face its most stern test in at least a generation as advertising revenues plummet and consumers continue to tune out. The fate of the Chicago Tribune is just one of many entities on life support. From the depths of a financial crisis three generations have never known, the industry must reinvent itself with a still elusive new business model.

From many angles, the scene is dire, but hope lingers and Americans (including the disillusioned residents of Illinois) are ready for concrete actions and concerted inspiration as we contribute to the historic idea that is the United States of America. So farewell to 2008, and thank you for the fleeting fond memories, and we welcome 2009, seeking a new chapter to this ongoing struggle for freedom at home and abroad.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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