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Tri-County Urban League President 'Honored' To Be Virtual Guest Of Rep. Cheri Bustos At Biden Speech

Laraine Bryson
Tri-County Urban League President Laraine Bryson says President Joe Biden's address to Congress provided "good starting points for people to come together." Bryson was Congresswoman Cheri Bustos' virtual guest for the address.

After being U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos' virtual guest for President Joe Biden's joint address to Congress, the leader of Peoria's Tri-County Urban League said many of the initiatives Biden talked about would make a difference locally. 

In his address Wednesday night, Biden called for investing in preschool for all 3 and 4-year-olds and offering people two years of free community college, along with affordable childcare for low and middle-income families.

Laraine Bryson said while those initiatives would help in any community, they'd especially make a difference in Peoria.

"To have free college, community college education, I think adds on," said Bryson. "Locally, we have Peoria Promise, and this would provide that opportunity to even more people, and I think that's great."

Bryson is referring to the program that reimburses eligible Peoria high school graduates who then take programs at Illinois Central College.

Bryson praised Biden's talk about childcare and education. She said children need to have a sound educational foundation, because that impacts them for the rest of their lives.

"Everything he talked about that helps people helps us locally, if they can get it done," said Bryson. "I think that he did a great job of lowering the temperature and being on point and on message."

Bryson also said she appreciated Biden's rhetoric around asking corporations and wealthy Americans in particular to pay their fair share of taxes.

"Oftentimes, the middle class gets burdened with additional taxes and those kinds of things," said Bryson. "You want those that have more resources to help out and help all of us."

Bryson said it's been a long time since she's heard talk from the president about reaching a consensus.

"I look forward to the positive 'we can do it, let's work together' kind of attitude," said Bryson. "I think that we need to come together as opposed to always the antagonistic approach."

Overall, Bryson said she was very honored to have been a virtual guest for the address.

Bryson has been president of the Tri-County Urban League for almost 30 years. She's expected to retire later this year.

Christine Hatfield, a graduate student in University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program, is WGLT and WCBU's PAR intern for the first half of 2021.