Legends, Leadership and Freedom

I’m thankful for the contributions of this year’s Local Legends.
by Mayor Jim Ardis, City of Peoria
Jim Ardis

This issue marks the seventh year of Peoria Magazines’ Local Legends program. I believe it is no coincidence that this annual recognition takes place in the same month we as a nation celebrate our independence and freedom. As I write this, I do not know the names of this year’s Legends, but I know that Peoria and our neighboring communities are better places to live, work and enjoy life because of what they have done—and continue to do. From my vantage point as mayor, I see several common traits and strengths shared by these individuals.

First and foremost, they thrive in a country founded on personal freedom. Decisions related to career goals, community interests, and social and cultural pursuits are only a few of the areas which benefit from freedom of thought and individual action. We are blessed that the basic freedoms we enjoy manifest themselves in our Legends’ outstanding achievements.

Personal courage is a common denominator. The courage to take on risk and extend personal wealth and energy into activities with no guarantee of success is critical. I imagine that all of these individuals had many failures and setbacks before the winning combination of factors came to the forefront. We celebrate their successes knowing they were built on trial and error, learning and moving forward.

Faith in what you’re doing, believing and striving for is a third common trait of extraordinary leaders. Faith can be defined in several ways. According to author Sarah Young, “Faith is the confirmation of things we do not see, and the conviction of their reality, perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses.” To pursue an idea or dream without having tangible proof of its ultimate outcome requires faith—regardless of individual beliefs or religious preferences.

Persistent commitment is key. Whether this year’s Legends have devoted themselves to social work, business, law, healthcare, education, economic development, entertainment or cultural pursuits, they have all stayed committed to their goal. 

The ability to learn from and partner with others is another shared trait. As I reviewed the list of 30 previous Legends, I couldn’t find one person who did not have a mentor, coach or teacher who helped them get started, giving them that first job or initial opportunity. Every single one gave credit to others for offering a helping hand of trust, confidence and personal support.

They focus on the lasting quality and value of their work. The fact that they are being recognized as Legends is proof that what they have devoted their lives to has enduring quality and value to the greater community.

Finally, there is a dose of humility. The ability to laugh at oneself, keep life in perspective and remember what’s important is shared among our Local Legends. We all make mistakes, but learning from them is the key to eventual accomplishment.

I’m thankful for the contributions of this year’s Legends, and commend them for their extraordinary accomplishments. We are certainly a better community for their work, and my job as mayor is made a bit easier by their commitment and love for our community. God bless them and God bless Peoria. PM

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