State of the Union Address: Cairo principal hosted by senator

Cairo Junior/Senior High School principal Lisa Childs Thomas was invited to be the guest of U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., at the 2018 State of the Union Address.

The address was delivered Tuesday night, Jan. 30, by President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.

The school principal’s attendance at the State of the Union Address was reported by Duckworth in a news release.

A native of Cairo, Childs Thomas grew up in Alexander County Housing Authority’s McBride public housing complex, which Duckworth said the Trump Administration chose to shutter without any clear plan to rehouse hundreds of Illinoisans who will be displaced. 

Childs Thomas went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees from Southern Illinois University and recently returned home to help educate young people in her community. 

“Lisa is a tireless advocate for Cairo, and she represents countless other Americans working to improve their communities with limited resources and support,” Duckworth said. 

In advance of the address, Duckworth said that the president promised that “he would invest in and help rebuild communities” like Cairo.

“More than one year into office, we’ve seen little investment from his administration – and its decision to tear down McBride and Elmwood is literally the opposite of what he promised.”

Duckworth said during his address, she hoped “Trump finally remembers one of his many broken promises tonight and actually does something to help families like Lisa’s.”

Thomas is a career-educator. She has served as Cairo Junior/Senior High School principal since 2016. 

“I became principal at my old high school as a way to help my community, because ordinary Americans can make it if we help them,” Thomas said. 

“Mr. Trump made a promise to improve the lives of ordinary Americans like me, my family and my students in rural communities like mine, but when he won he went back on his word. Maybe he’ll have a change of heart tonight,” she said prior to the State of the Union Address.

Since being sworn into the U.S. Senate in 2017, Duckworth said she has worked to address the challenges faced by residents of the Elmwood and McBride housing developments, hold those responsible for the crisis accountable and improve the Cairo economy.

Last year, Duckworth visited Cairo to meet with local officials, tour the city and hear directly from residents. 

Duckworth and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., then met with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson in Washington, D.C., where they secured several commitments from the secretary on behalf of the residents. 

Duckworth said those commitments included a trip by Carson to Cairo, where she joined him and reiterated the tenants’ desire to stay there. 

In September, Senators Duckworth and Durbin asked Trump to form a cabinet-level task force to address the housing, health and economic crises in Cairo. 

In calling for the new task force focused on Cairo, the senators highlighted that because the federal government played a significant role in the city’s economic decline, it should also play an active role in its revival and recovery.


The Gazette-Democrat

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