License to Inspire

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White commended Bradley professor and Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein.

June 18, 2010

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White commended Bradley professor and Illinois Poet Laureate Kevin Stein for his ability to educate, entertain and enlighten the residents of Illinois.

“I am tremendously impressed by your commitment to the Illinois literacy community,” White said to Stein. “You have really shared with us your ability, skill and knowledge.”

Stein was honored today during a luncheon at Bradley for the Institute of School and Public Librarians. The weeklong conference continues the education of librarians across the state by providing them with information and networking opportunities.

The Secretary of State presented Stein with a letter of commendation and a personalized Illinois license plate that read “IL POET.”

“Your tireless commitment to promote poetry will help ensure that future generations read and write poems,” White said.

White, who has made it his mission to keep young people off the streets and in school, said literacy remains crucial to helping students improve their lives.

“I believe that if you encourage kids to read and encourage kids to write, they will become better educated and more responsible citizens,” he said.

As Poet Laureate, Stein said he made it his mission to put poetry out amid the population, not hide it inside schools and libraries.

“I wanted to put poetry in places where people didn’t expect to find it,” he said. To further his point, he once read poems to a group of factory workers in Kewanee.

Stein said he was humbled to be honored by the Secretary of State. As Poet Laureate, he attempts to show teachers, students, parents and librarians the importance of reading and writing poetry.

“So much in the classroom and the home should be a model of the valuation of words and the ability to communicate,” Stein said. “Poetry creates a kind of bridge between culture and age, history and geography.”

Stein was named Illinois Poet Laureate in 2003. Since then, his Poetry Now! Initiative has donated funds to Illinois libraries to purchase books written by Illinois poets. Stein also supports the Illinois Emerging Writers Competition to encourage new writers and continues to promote the reading and writing of poetry.

Stein serves as the director of the creative writing program at Bradley, where he has taught since 1984. He has been honored as Faculty Member of the Year and was named a Caterpillar Professor in 2000.

Bradley President Joanne Glasser remarked how lucky the Bradley community was to know and work alongside Stein.

“He is a caring and kind gentleman, a scholar and a teacher, who is committed to Bradley and his students,” Glasser said. “We are truly blessed.”

Stein is the fourth state poet laureate, succeeding Gwendolyn Brooks, and is serving a second four-year term in the position.

Stein read a few of his poems during the luncheon, including “An Apostrophe,” a poem he wrote for a ceremony honoring mothers of those killed in combat. He also read several poems written by elementary school students across the state.

White followed his remarks about Stein with a brief summary about the poet:  “As they would say in my neighborhood, ‘You da man.’”