Thumbs up to students returning to Southern Illinois University's campus. Sure, the return of students gums up traffic in Carbondale for a couple days, but students are the life-blood of the community, and, by extension, all of Southern Illinois. It is a figurative time of rebirth for Southern Illinois, a human advent of spring. In the next few weeks, thousands of students will embark on their life journey. They will cut the ties to home and forge their way in the world. It is a heady, although also terrifying, time in their lives. To, the rest of us, it is an annual reminder that time stands still for no one. We are excited for the young men and women moving onto campus this week. We wish them the best in their academic endeavors and to fulfilling futures that took root at SIUC.
Thumbs up to the memory of Saluki superfan Charles Helleny. Helleny, 84, passed away at his home in Herrin last week. Helleny will be remembered as one of history’s most enthusiastic Southern Illinois University fans. Helleny devoted countless hours to the SIU athletic program and made generous contributions to the university. He donated $1 million to the university last year, prompting SU athletics to name the east lobby of the Banterra Center the “Charles Helleny Pavilion.” The first home game of each men’s basketball season will henceforth be known as the Charles Helleny Tip-Off Classic game. But, Helleny’s mark on SIU athletics runs deeper than his generosity. Coaches, athletes and fans alike will miss his smiling visage. If there was a ball bouncing at the SIU Arena, there was a good chance Helleny was there to cheer on his Salukis — both the men’s and women’s teams. “What he did (attending so many athletic events) is something that should be put in the Guinness Book of World Records,” said SIU athletic director Jerry Kill.
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Thumbs down to the lack of communication within the J.B. Pritzker administration that resulted in the hiring, and firing, of Confederate Railroad to perform at the Du Quoin State Fair. Emails show that the band, which uses Confederate flags in its promotional material was booked for two months before the governor’s office learned of the matter. The band’s management team sent an email to the State of Illinois proclaiming its name “was never intended … as a political or racial statement.” We tend to place more stock in a statement made by state spokesperson Emily Bittner that said, “Some values are so fundamental that they transcend a written policy, and this administration has made clear that state resources will not be used to promote symbols of hate or racism.” If Peter had just communicated that message to Paul, the State of Illinois could have avoided the embarrassment.
Thumbs up to 12th District Rep. Mike Bost for his role in dissuading President Donald Trump from commuting the sentence of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on multiple corruption convictions. Bost spoke directly to the president earlier this week, urging him to not commute the sentence. According to CNN, Trump’s response was “I wish I had the perspective before.” We do too Mr. President.
Thumbs up to the proposed expansion of Carbondale’s Boys and Girls Clubs. The expansion plans are reflected in the group’s name change to Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois. In the near future the group hopes to expand to satellite sites in Marion and Mount Vernon. Marion mayor Mike Absher campaigned on getting the organization to Marion. He is donating his salary to the cause. There are indications a Marion facility could open within a year. “To me, it’s a way to build community,” said Tina Carpenter, chief operating officer of Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Illinois. “It’s not about Carbondale or Marion or Mount Vernon, or any other town. It’s about Southern Illinois and taking care of our kids.” We couldn’t have said it any better. We salute Marion and Mount Vernon for investing in the future of their young citizens.