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Hastert, J. Dennis (1942-) | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Hastert, J. Dennis (1942-)


Historical Note:

Born on January 2, 1942, Hastert is a 1964 graduate of Wheaton College (IL) where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics. He attended graduate school at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where he earned a master's degree in the philosophy of education in 1967.

Dennis Hastert rose to his position as Speaker of the House from the cornfields of Illinois. Born in Aurora, he grew up in Oswego and after 16 years of teaching and coaching at Yorkville High School, he served in the Illinois House of Representatives for six years before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. In 1999, Hastert's colleagues elected him Speaker of the House, the third highest elected official in the U.S. government.

Throughout his legislative career, Speaker Hastert has drawn from his experience as a former wrestling coach by emphasizing team-building and setting achievable goals.

Prior to his election as Speaker in 1999, Hastert served as Chief Deputy Majority Whip, a leadership position he had held since the election of the 104th Congress in 1994. In that capacity, Hastert was responsible for advancing legislation to the House floor by working with members, developing a policy strategy, lining up support and counting Republican and Democrat votes to ensure passage. His reputation is one of reaching across the aisle to develop bipartisan legislation.

He also served as Chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice. Chairman Hastert had broad oversight for the Departments of State, Defense and Justice, as well as the nation's War on Drugs and the 2000 Census. As a member of the House Commerce Committee, Hastert had jurisdiction over energy policy, interstate and foreign commerce, broadcast and telecommunications policy, food, health and drug issues.

Additionally, Hastert has been the House Republican point person on health care reform. He has chaired the Speaker's Steering Committee on Health and the Resource Group on Health, and he helped author the health care reform bill, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 to expand coverage to the uninsured. In the 105th Congress, Hastert again was tapped by the House Leadership to chair the House Working Group on Health Care Quality, which ultimately authored the Patient Protection Act. This legislation passed the House on July 24, 1998 and expanded Americans' access to health care.

During his years in Congress, Hastert championed legislation to balance the federal budget, cut taxes and government waste and clean up the environment. For instance, he led the fight with U.S. Senator John McCain to repeal the Social Security Earnings Limit, a project accomplished during his Speakership in the 106th Congress. He also has 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 groundwater standards by working for the removal and 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.

Prior to Congress, during the 1980s, 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 as a government and history teacher 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 and led 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.

Hastert lives in Yorkville, Illinois, along the Fox River with his wife Jean. They have two grown sons, Ethan and Joshua who live and work in Washington, DC. Whenever he can find free time, Hastert enjoys attending wrestling meets, going fishing, restoring vintage automobiles, and carving and painting duck decoys.







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