Former Congressman Jerry Costello visits SIUE

He went through four contested races before making his way to Congress. He represented both SIUE and SIU Carbondale during his time in office. And now he is giving back to the people in his community.

Former congressman Jerry Costello spoke to SIUE students and area residents last week as part of a lecture series with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

Former congressman Jerry Costello, who announced Oct. 4, 2011 that he would not run for another term, spoke about his 25-year career last Thursday at the Abbott Auditorium in Lovejoy Library.

Costello said his time in Congress was “a privilege and an honor” and he “didn’t regret one day.”

Costello said at one point a man thanked him for saving his daughter’s life. The man, according to Costello, said his daughter needed an experimental drug and after running out of options, he called Costello’s office. Within two days, Costello returned the man’s call and the girl was able to get the experimental drug, which the man said saved his daughter’s life, according to Costello.

The former congressman told TWIC he enjoyed speaking with students earlier in the day when he met with a political science class and members of the Political Science Association.

“My hope is that I can inspire people, young people, to get involved in public service if it’s elected, or if it’s volunteer or whatever it may be,” Costello said. “So there’s a lot of rewards. It’s not on a paycheck, but it’s like the story I told about the man who said, ‘You saved my daughter’s life.’ That is worth everything to me.”

Costello also discussed the changing climate in Congress. It used to be that there was an objective and “you either achieve it or you don’t,” but it is not taken personally, according to Costello.

“All that has changed,” Costello said. “… Now if you disagree, you’re not patriotic, you’re not a good American.”

In regard to the Affordable Care Act, which signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010 and ruled constitutional by the United States Supreme Court in June, Costello said he does not think it went far enough.

“I think we should have gone to a single-payer system,” Costello said.

The former congressman also said once the Affordable Care Act is in place, people will begin to realize they did not understand it at first, “but it’s the right thing to do.”

Costello served under five presidents – Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama – and said his favorite to serve under was Clinton.

Costello said he had “a great respect” for George H.W. Bush, who was a “very compassionate person,” but disagreed with George W. Bush “on many policies.”

Costello told TWIC he thought the discussion Thursday night was “very good.”

“I look forward to the next lecture,” Costello said. “I enjoy this. I had some very good questions both tonight and when I was speaking with some of the classes today.”

Costello was first sworn in Aug. 11, 1988 after running in four contested elections in an eight month period.

Shortly after making his retirement announcement, Costello said he was contacted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in Carbondale and “didn’t hesitate to take on their invitation” to be involved in a lecture series because of his “longstanding relationship with SIU.”

Costello’s talk last week was part of that lecture series.


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