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Former Obama reelection campaign staffer, Woodruff High School graduate speaks at Peoria Public Schools foundation breakfast

Kouri Marshall gives the keynote speech at the 2023 Peoria Public Schools Foundation 365 Breakfast.
Collin Schopp
Kouri Marshall gives the keynote speech Thursday at the 2023 Peoria Public Schools Foundation 365 Breakfast.

A Peoria native returned to the high school he graduated from Thursday morning to deliver the keynote speech at the Peoria Public Schools Foundation 365 Breakfast.

Kouri Marshall is director of state and local government relations in the central region for the technology trade association, Chamber of Progress. However, throughout his political career, the Woodruff High School and Eureka College graduate has worked in Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, Washington, D.C. city council member campaigns and in the office of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

He said his personal motto, “character and consistency,” comes from the community where he grew up in.

“It comes from my family,” he said. “It comes from the folks that have raised me, the folks that are living right here in Peoria.”

Marshall also is the founder of ChiGivesBack, a nonprofit that holds a toy drive in the Chicagoland area, as well as feeding senior citizens and helping teachers purchase classroom supplies.

“I just have a heart to serve,” he said. “That’s what I love to do. That’s what I’ve done for the last 13 years of my life. Whether that was in government or nonprofits and nonprofit administration.”

His speech focused on the story of the tortoise and the hare, a story Marshall said informs his outlook and his dedication to focus and consistency.

“I often ask people who won that race,” he said. “Was it the tortoise? Or was it the hare? We all know the tortoise won the race even while he was much slower than the hare, because he stayed focused and he stayed consistent.”

It was nostalgic for Marshall to give a speech at the former Woodford High School, which is now Woodruff Career and Technical Center.

“One of my colleagues sent me a picture of this gymnasium and it almost brought me to tears,” Marshall said. “You know, knowing that Woodruff has closed down, this is a place I love, Peoria is a place that I love. This community gave so much to me. I’m always honored to come back.”

Marshall says currently, outside of his work with the Chamber of Progress, he’s exploring other opportunities for service in Chicago. His advice for kids growing up in Peoria now? Listen to the adults.

“If there’s an adult in your life that cares about you, hang on to them, you know,” he said. “Watch the crowd that you’re affiliating yourself with because that can truly have an impact on the trajectory you will have for next five to 10 years of your life.”

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Corrected: January 17, 2023 at 7:27 AM CST
Marshall is a graduate of Woodruff High School, not Woodford High School.
Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.