Monday, August 02, 2004

A conversation with Gov. Ryan

Last week, NCADP intern Kristen Bell had the opportunity to interview former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. The purpose of the interview was to get a statement from Gov. Ryan for NCADP's web site in connection with the airing of the documentary "Deadline," which many of you know aired on NBC's Dateline Friday evening. (To see Gov. Ryan's statement, go here.)

Here, in two parts, is Kristen's account:

Last year I cut an article out of the New York Times and taped it to the back of a binder that I use almost everyday at school.

The article describes Governor Ryan’s blanket commutation of Illinois’ death row on January 11, 2003: an act of courage that spared 156 men from death by lethal injection. The picture of Ryan delivering his commutation speech is something like an icon for me. It inspires me in my work and reminds me that people can and do make real change, that justice can and will be done when given the proper care.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to the man whose face I always see on my binder. I took down a dictation of his statement on the “Deadline” documentary for the NCADP website and asked him a couple questions afterwards.

I was a bit nervous on the phone at first, but my fears subsided when I realized that the person behind the imposing newspaper picture was really a kind, grandfatherly man. When I told him my name was Kristen at the beginning of our conversation, he said that he has a daughter named Kristen—apparently he calls her Kiki. He spoke slowly and was more than willing to talk with me after the dictation. “Ask me as much as you like!” he replied heartily after I had ventured to ask, “Can I ask you just one or two questions sir?”

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