Keynote Speaker

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Cheri Bustos

U.S. Representative

Keynote speaker 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Congresswoman Cheri Bustos

Cheri Bustos considers it an honor to represent the hardworking families of Illinois’ 17th Congressional District which includes Western, Central and Northern Illinois. Now in her third term, Cheri has focused on job creation, strengthening our economy and building a stronger middle class.

As a Member of the House Agriculture Committee, she worked across the aisle to pass the first long-term Farm Bill in years. And through her service on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Cheri also worked to pass the first longterm highway bill in a decade so we can get Illinoisans back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, rail lines, airports and waterways.

After the 2016 elections, Cheri was elected by her colleagues to serve in leadership as the Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. As the only Midwesterner elected to House Democratic Leadership, she is working to ensure that the House Democrats’ agenda connects with rural and workingclass Americans. In 2015, Cheri accepted a leadership post as a Senior Whip, where she uses her position to fight for policies that will advance American manufacturing, ensure women’s economic security and grow our middle-class.

Born in Springfield Illinois, Cheri Bustos grew up in a family that taught her the importance of hard work, caring for others and public service. While working as a young reporter in the Quad-Cities, Cheri met a rookie cop named Gerry Bustos who she fell in love with and married. With her husband Gerry, who now serves as the Sheriff of Rock Island County, she raised three sons and has two grandchildren, all of whom proudly call Illinois home. Throughout her career in journalism, Cheri used her pen to help her community. She uncovered numerous stories of corruption and greed in government, winning awards for her work on behalf of the public interest.

After a career in journalism, Bustos worked in health care before, during and after the passage of the Affordable Care Act for one of the nation’s largest non-denominational, non-profit health care systems. There, she helped families access affordable coverage and worked to improve the quality of health care available in the community.

Cheri has long been active in her community and served on numerous nonprofit boards and as the President of the Women’s Connection, one of Illinois’ largest women’s organizations. In 2007, Cheri’s commitment to public service and desire to further give back to the community led her to run for local office. Cheri was elected to serve on the City Council in East Moline for two terms and made her top priority economic development and building a stronger middle-class.

Cheri earned her Bachelor’s Degree in political science from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Master’s Degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Springfield. She also attended Illinois College in Jacksonville, where both her parents and son graduated. An accomplished basketball and volleyball player, Cheri was inducted into the Illinois College Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.

General Larry O. Spencer, USAF (RET)

Keynote speaker 5:30 p.m.

Honorary Degree, Doctor of Public Service

General Larry Spencer, USAF (Ret)

As the Air Force Association’s top executive, General Spencer directs the association’s professional staff. He is responsible for the management and operations of AFA, AFA Veteran Benefits Association, and the Air Force Memorial Foundation. He also holds the position of publisher of Air Force Magazine, the official journal of the Air Force Association, which has approximately 94,000 members. Spencer is also a Board Director for Whirlpool corp.

Retiring as a four-star general, Spencer spent over 40 years in the Air Force. His last assignment was as the Vice Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, Washington, DC. In this capacity, Spencer was the second highest-ranking military member in the Air Force. He presided over the Air Staff and served as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Requirements Oversight Council and Deputy Management Advisory Group. He assisted the Chief of Staff of the Air Force with organizing, training, and equipping 690,000 active duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces serving in the United States and overseas.

Spencer began his career in the enlisted ranks and rose to become a four-star general. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering technology from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Spencer was commissioned through Officer Training School in 1980 as a distinguished graduate. He has commanded a squadron, group and wing, and he was Vice Commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center. He was also the first Air Force officer to serve as the Assistant Chief of Staff in the White House Military Office. He served as the Chief Financial Officer and then Director of Mission Support at a major command; and held positions within the Air Staff and Secretariat. Prior to his assignment as Vice Chief of Staff, the general was Director, Force Structure, Resources and Assessment, Joint Staff, the Pentagon, Washington, DC where he worked directly for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Spencer participated in contingency Operations Desert Shield/Storm, Desert Thunder, Desert Fox, Allied Force, and Iraqi Freedom. Spencer has a Master of Science degree in business management from Webster College, and a Master of Science degree in industrial resource strategy from the National Defense University. He also completed post-graduate courses at Harvard University, and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

General Spencer has two named awards: The Air Force General Larry Spencer Innovation Award and the Air Force General Larry Spencer Special Acts and Services Award. General Spencer is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow of Fels Institute of Government, University of Pennsylvania. General Spencer is the author of the book, The Green Eyeshades of War, published in 2016.

Larry and his wife, Ora, reside in Alexandria, Virginia.