Former Congressman - 14th Congressional District
Former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
From the cornfields of Illinois, Congressman J. Dennis Hastert was honored by his colleagues when he was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives on January 6, 1999—the third highest elected official in the U.S. government.
Serving until January 3, 2007, Hastert became the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history, surpassing the record previously held by fellow Illinoisan, Joe Cannon.
On the day when he succeeded Newt Gingrich as Speaker, Hastert broke with tradition by delivering his acceptance speech from the House floor and by allowing Minority Leader Dick Gephardt to briefly preside over the day's proceedings. These two actions served as fitting symbols for the content of the new Speaker's remarks, when he emphasized the need for both parties to come together in the House to get their work done:
"Solutions to problems cannot be found in a pool of bitterness. They can be found in an environment in which we trust one another's word; where we generate heat and passion, but where we recognize that each member is equally important to our overall mission of improving the life of the American people."
During his tenure as Speaker, Hastert focused his efforts on lowering taxes, improving education, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and fortifying our national defense. In response to the tragic attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, he was instrumental in passing important anti-terrorism legislation and historic legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security—the most significant restructuring of the federal government in the last 50 years.
Hastert has drawn from his experience as a former wrestling coach by emphasizing teambuilding and setting clear-cut, achievable goals. Prior to his role as Speaker, Hastert served as Chief Deputy Majority Whip in the 104th Congress and was responsible for advancing common sense legislation to the House floor by working with members to develop achievable policy strategies, lining up support and counting Republican and Democrat votes to ensure passage. His reputation is one characterized by reaching across the aisle to develop bipartisan legislation.
Prior to that, Hastert served as Chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice. He was also the point person on health care reform, and chaired the Speaker's Steering Committee on Health and the Resource Group on Health. Additionally, he helped author the health care reform bill, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 to expand coverage to the uninsured and chaired the House Working Group on Health Care Quality, which ultimately authored the Patient Protection Act. That legislation, which passed the House on July 24, 1998, expanded Americans' choices and access to affordable, high-quality health care.
He has championed legislation to balance the federal budget, cut taxes and government waste and clean up the environment. He also passed legislation to reduce government regulations in areas such as trucking and telecommunications in order to increase competition and consumer choice. In addition, Hastert has fought to preserve safe groundwater standards by successfully working for the removal and proper disposal of 21 million cubic feet of low-level thorium waste in West Chicago, Illinois, and by blocking a proposed garbage dump that would threaten the Fox Valley's groundwater supply.
Congressman Hastert has continued to build on his record of accomplishment for the 14th Congressional District. He successfully supported a full-funding grant agreement with the U.S. Department of Transportation to expand Metra train service in the 14th District. He has secured dozens of federal grants for district communities and organizations and has assisted with everything from bolstering police services to protecting district farmland. He fully supported the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home in Dixon to be designated as a National Historic Site and to serve as a living legacy to our 40th President.
Prior to his time in Congress, Hastert served three terms in the Illinois General Assembly, where he spearheaded legislation on child abuse prevention, property tax reform, educational excellence and economic development. While there, he also led an effort that resulted in the adoption of a new public utilities act, reforming the law to benefit Illinoisans.
Hastert spent the first 16 years of his career teaching government, history and economics at Yorkville High School, and it also was there that he met his wife, Jean, a fellow teacher. In addition to teaching, he coached football and wrestling, eventually leading the Yorkville High School Foxes to victory at the 1976 Illinois State Wrestling Championship; later that year, he was named Illinois Coach of the Year. Hastert, a former high school and college wrestler himself, was inducted as an Outstanding American into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 2000. In 2001, the United States Olympic Committee named him Honorary Vice President of the American Olympic movement.
Born January 2, 1942 in Aurora, Illinois, he earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Wheaton College in 1964 and his masters in philosophy of education from Northern Illinois University in 1967. Hastert lives in Plano, Illinois, with his wife, Jean. They have two grown sons, Ethan and Joshua, and a grandson, Jack. Whenever he can find free time, Hastert enjoys attending wrestling meets, going fishing, restoring vintage automobiles, and carving and painting duck decoys.