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Hastert re-gifts historic desk to Roskam


To see the video of former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s desk being delivered to U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam’s office, visit:

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The stately old wooden desk could have been seen as the new Republican green initiative. (Save trees by reclaiming used congressional furniture!)

Or it could have been spun as another sign of the Republican commitment to budget cuts. (They’ll trim 5 percent off the budget by re-gifting office supplies!)

But for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, the desk is about lineage, history and leadership.

On Thursday, Roskam, a Republican from Bloomingdale, announced on his Facebook page that he had received a hand-me-down desk from Hastert. Of course, when it holds so much history, the desk isn’t as much “used” as it is “vintage.”

Roskam will be the fourth Republican owner of the desk. And when he opened the top left-hand drawer, he found the signatures of three former Republican Whips, all from Illinois.

In sort of a wooden yearbook, Hastert wrote “my old desk,” signed it and included the dates he served as Chief Deputy Majority Whip and Speaker.

Bob Michel also wrote “my old desk” and with the dates he served in the House (1956 through 1994). The 88-year-old Peoria native was Republican Whip from 1975 to 1981.

Les Arends topped them all, signing his name and also carving it into the drawer. Arends served in Congress for 40 years and as House Republican Whip from 1955 through 1974. The namesake for the Les Arends Forest Preserve in Batavia died in 1985.

“I think it’s great recognition of the heritage Illinois has here in Congress,” Roskam says on a two-minute video he posted on his Facebook page. “And it’s just a true honor to serve in the footsteps of really great people who had a huge impact on our public life.”

The desk is property of the House of Representatives and was moved to Hastert’s Yorkville office when he left Congress. As former Speaker, Hastert still maintains a federal office in Kendall County. Lately, some items in the office are slowly being shipped back to the capitol.

Besides the signatures, Hastert also taped a letter to a right-hand drawer. In the letter, Hastert talked about the memories he had while sitting at the desk. In 1998, the desk was used to block the door when a shooter entered the Capitol Building and opened fire. On Sept. 11, 2001, Hastert sat at that desk while making the decision to shut down Congress.

Hastert sent the desk to Roskam after he was named Republican Chief Deputy Whip this session. The Whip is an elected leadership position within the party. The Whip assists the Minority or Majority Leader and is often responsible for making sure party members are present for crucial votes. It can sometimes be a stepping stone to higher party leadership.

“For me, that desk was important,” Hastert said. “It was four people who started out from Illinois and ended up as leaders.”

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