Senator Mark Kirk makes first Chicago public appearance since stroke

May 3, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Kirk had a dry run of sorts with a public appearance downstate earlier this week.

Friday, after a 15-month absence, he was back in the big leagues in the Chicago media market.

Senator Kirk used a wheelchair to keep up with his Illinois counterpart Dick Durbin (D-IL) as they traversed the long walkway leading to the Learn Public Charter School at the Naval Station Great Lakes.

It was Kirk's first news conference with Chicago media since his stroke in January of 2012. He credited his rehabilitation program for his comeback.

"Part of my mission is to tell everybody in Illinois that if you have a mom or a dad who go through a stroke that if they get depressed one day to call me and I'll get them up and turn them around," Kirk said.

"This is our first public appearance back in Illinois since mark has returned to the U.S. Senate, and we talked about this on the floor of the Senate that this would be our first stop," Durbin said.

Kirk's public re-emergence has happened in stages during the past 15 months. While his mental faculties were not affected by the stroke, carefully planned events documented the return of his speech and motor skills.

More often, he uses the four-pronged cane for walkable distances.

"My standard walk for rehab was from my house to the Fort Sheridan Tower, which is about a block," he said. "It always took 18 minutes and yesterday it took eight."

The event Friday, which also included Congressman Brad Schneider, largely concerned how sequestration or mandated federal budget cuts might affect the Great Lakes Navy Base. Senator Kirk, a former naval reserve officer considered an expert on military and foreign affairs, reclaimed his place a moderate presence in increasingly partisan American politics.

"With most Americans not far left or far right and I have sought to be the practical guy, glue, who keeps the Senate together."

Senator Kirk says he will run for re-election in 2016.

We've heard from the senator in controlled one-on-one settings, but news conferences are free-wheeling affairs and he did not miss a beat.

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