U.S. Rep. Robin L. Kelly of the 2nd Congressional District Monday was locally sworn in by Cook County Judge Anna Demacopoulos after being re-elected in November.
The ceremony, held at the Holiday Inn Chicago Conference Center in Matteson, hosted a room of 200, buzzing with excitement as village trustees, local mayors and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx listened to Kelly’s plans for the district and nation, with a historically diverse Congress and powerful new Democratic majority.
This delight was expressed on the teary-eyed faces of supporters as Sandy Redd, Matteson resident and contestant on “The Voice,” sang the National Anthem to a room of somber smiles and nods of approval.
Kelly expressed her gratitude for the heartfelt performance.
“In honor of the 116th Congress, I wanted to show a little girl power tonight.”
Rabbi Ellen W. Dreyfus shared words of encouragement, urging Kelly to “lead with intelligence, discipline and discernment.”
Dreyfus opened the ceremony with an ancient parable: “Aboard a ship, one man took a drill to the floor of his seat. When the others demand that he stop, he responded, ‘But it is only under my own seat that I am drilling.’ The group replied, ‘But if the water rises, it will cover us all.’”
The theme of rising, troubled waters was a defining metaphor for unity, compassion and progress throughout the ceremony, as Kelly later spoke on “lifting all boats.”
She took a moment to reflect on the obstacles she faced in a minority Congress.
“Getting things done in a minority Congress involved what I called ‘popcorn diplomacy,’” Kelly said of her attempts to woo Republicans in the House with salty snacks. “That all changed on Jan. 3. I’ll still bring popcorn, but now my colleagues and I have the opportunity to offer better deals to the American people, and clean up Washington corruption.”
In her speech, Kelly told her supporters what they can expect now that the power dynamic has shifted.
“Looking forward, I will pass critical legislation on background checks for gun owners. Last week, I finalized a draft calling for background checks, access to counseling and monitoring of store purchases for gun owners.”
Kelly repeatedly referenced her favorite John Kennedy quote: “One person can make a difference, but everyone must try,” she said, reminding the room of the assiduous nature that defined her previous term. “Even in a gridlocked Congress, we made a difference. In 2014, I published the Kelly Report on Gun Violence in America. The most comprehensive report ever published by a member of Congress. I was one of five Congress members who led a protest that shutdown the House floor, to bring attention to gun violence and police violence.”
Kelly spoke about systematic changes to healthcare in addition to tackling the issue with guns.
“I am pushing my MOMMA Act, addressing the systemic challenges in our healthcare system that impact mother and infant mortality.”
Kelly spoke of a renewed commitment to the 2nd District and the nation, as she condemned “Washington corruption, partisanship, division, intolerance and just plain stupidity.”
“We are better when our ideas inspire generational change. We know no party has a monopoly on good ideas,” she pauses for a smile. “I say that because I’m behaving tonight. We know good governance invests in schools, that it builds bridges and not walls. … We know bad governance doubles down to please a frenzied few or the well connected.”
Kelly closed with a declaration of loyalty to the nation’s vulnerable groups, and a reminder that accountability in Washington remains a priority for the 116th Congress.
“Black lives do matter. LGBTQ rights are human rights. We will begin to tackle homelessness and create new jobs. By the way, how did we get from making Mexico pay for the wall, to not paying government employees until we agree to pay for it?”