Meet the Illinois Mayor Who Saved Christmas From School Grinches
The following is a rush transcript. Keith Pekau, the mayor of Orland Park, Illinois, was a guest on the Todd Starnes Radio Show. The mayor led the charge to save Christmas after the local school superintendent banned Christmas. Jeff Stein, from KXEL in Iowa, was guest-hosting for Todd. Click here to listen to the full interview.
STEIN: Right now, we’re going to the Patriot Mobile Newsmaker Line and we are connecting with the mayor of the City of Orland Park, Illinois. He is Mayor Keith Pekau. Mayor Pekau, thanks for joining us on the program. How are you, sir?
MAYOR: [01:40:35] Thank you very much for having me. I’m doing great.
STEIN: [01:40:37] All right. So tell us about Orland Park. Where are you located? How big a city is it?
MAYOR: [01:40:44] We’re about as the crow flies. We’re about 25 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, and we’re a city of approximately 60000 people and 59000.
STEIN: [01:40:55] All right. So you have plenty to do with being the mayor of Orland Park, but something drew your attention that was tied to something they were. Well, shall we say, not going to do in the local schools. Set that up for us, please.
MAYOR: [01:41:08] So the local school districts here are run by someone other than the mayor. They’re run by a separately elected school board and a unelected superintendent elected to essentially eliminate Christmas from everything in the in the district. So that included Christmas trees. It included they couldn’t teach The Nutcracker a variety of banks.
STEIN: [01:41:31] This is one of these situations where normally I’d say, well, it’s a well-meaning individual and they just can’t figure out, you know, out kick their coverage on it, if you will. This was done without the school board knowing right this way. This was just an edict from the superintendent.
MAYOR: [01:41:47] Correct, the school board had actually passed the policy, saying they wanted to be more inclusive and that they would have further discussions and details around that, and then the superintendent made this decision unbeknownst to the school board, at least unbeknownst to the majority, the school board, maybe one member knew. We don’t know, but the majority of them did not.
STEIN: [01:42:06] So in an effort to be more inclusive, Christmas was banned. Where was there a list about what could be included and what could not be included?
MAYOR: [01:42:16] There was a letter that was sent to the principals that was forwarded on to me that it didn’t really have a list that essentially had anything that were, you know, lights display as Christmas trees. Anything that referenced Christmas in any way was to be taken down. And that was what was sent to the principals at the schools. And obviously, several parents found out and they forwarded it on to me.
STEIN: [01:42:41] Now, do you have children in that school district?
MAYOR: [01:42:44] Not anymore. They’re all through that school district some time ago. My children are now adults.
STEIN: [01:42:49] Okay, but you’re familiar with the schools. I mean, so this is this this is friendly territory to you. So somebody apparently got this word to you.
MAYOR: [01:42:57] They did get the word to me, and I confirmed it through several sources that this was in fact true. I didn’t want to put it post anything on social media or anything that was not factual. And knowing that I have much more reach than some of the parents do just because of my role as mayor, I posted it on social media. It certainly took off in the oil and park area. These and they let their elected representatives know, and within two or three days, the policy was reversed.
STEIN: [01:43:31] We’re speaking with the mayor of Orland Park, Illinois. He is Mayor Keith Pekau, and he’s joining us on The Todd Starnes Show. Jeff Stein filling in for Todd today. All right, so you post what did you post on social media? Was it just some words or some text or did you post a memo or what did you put up there?
MAYOR: [01:43:47] I posted essentially posted what I knew to be true that this had happened and that if in fact it did happen, and if the school board was unaware that the parent should let the school board know and I was in all of their emails were listed in a separate post that someone else had made. I link that post, which had the letter. It also had all of the school board members school emails. And I believe they then start getting bombarded with emails from the constituents.
STEIN: [01:44:23] Well, that’s the best part of this, where you simply said, I understand that the school district in our town is doing this and oh yeah, here’s how you could contact the people. Were you surprised at the response from the citizens of all imports?
MAYOR: [01:44:37] Absolutely not. And the the responses and comments on the on the post itself, there were a lot of people who weren’t even Christians, and they said they don’t want Christmas canceled as part of America, and they want to see Christmas continue so that this is not the intended policy. This is not fit what all the park wants. I knew that was the case. I know that’s not what the people of Warren Park wanted. And you know, fortunately, they were able to peacefully let the school board know which is really critical here. They did this in a peaceful manner, and the school board reacted immediately once they found out about it and made a change.
STEIN: [01:45:15] So what’s the current situation for students this week in school as we near Christmas?
MAYOR: [01:45:21] I think they have two more days in school this week and they’ve it’s been operating as it has for the last couple of decades, as far as you know, as far as Christmas is concerned. So those things were not canceled. The things that were being taught were not canceled and it’s back to kind of business as normal on that front. Although there obviously still in Illinois, some restrictions regarding COVID, that’s not exactly normal. But I believe they’re dealing with that. Fortunately for me, my children are out of the school, so I’m not having to deal with that at this time.
STEIN: [01:46:06] Absolutely. I mean, Christmas is obviously its roots are a Christian holiday, but it is also part of America as part of our culture. And why would we cancel that? And I think parents in general are more than happy to be inclusive, but inclusive does not mean eliminating that. It means including other things.
MAYOR: [01:45:52] But at least in terms of having to have Christmas trees stuck in back store rooms and lights pulled down from bulletin boards, it’s back to normal with regard to what kids should be expecting at Christmas.
STEIN: [01:46:25] Almost by definition, Mr. Mayor, inclusive means to add other things I would say. I don’t mean to make light of this, but what’s been the reaction that you have gotten then either from people at the school saying, Mayor, what are you doing to us here or from some of the
MAYOR: [01:46:41] voters there in your city? Well, I think the parents were very happy that I made them aware, and the school board obviously took very quick action. I think some of them would have preferred that I picked up the phone and called them personally about it, but we had no idea whether they were aware of the situation or not. And in my estimation, it’s a lot better than many times for the constituents and the parents to make their voices known. That tends to have much more of an impact than one person saying, Hey, this is what I’ve heard, so we elected to go that route, and the parents provided plenty of factual information to the school board to let them know that this indeed was happening.
STEIN: [01:47:25] What I really like about this story and Todd wanted to make sure that we told America about it is because it just seems to be exactly the way things should be handled. In other words, someone has a bad policy, and it’s simply a matter of let’s politely make people let people know about it and then offer opinions so that perhaps it can be changed this. This seems like exactly how representative democracy should work at this stage.
MAYOR: [01:47:57] I would agree people were told about it. People informed their elected representatives, their elected representatives took action and you could say, well, what if they didn’t take action? Well, then those constituents should vote them out of office in the future. But this is how things should be handled in a in a representative form of government. And it was it was done absolutely peacefully and it was done by the people and the constituents and the elected representatives heard it, heard their constituents and reacted accordingly. It is not. Law did not allow an elected bureaucrat to make the decision.
STEIN: [01:48:34] Mayor, thank you so much for taking time to tell the story to America here on The Todd Starnes Show. Merry Christmas to you and your family and everyone there in Orland Park, Illinois.
MAYOR: [01:48:44] Merry Christmas to you as well and to all of your listeners. Thank you very much.