Former U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon believed that politics was all about people and building relationships. He always had a hearty smile and an extended hand -- for constituents, Democratic colleagues and even members of the opposite political party.
Dixon died on Sunday at age 86 but his example of cooperation and collaboration should live on as an inspiration for current and future leaders./
He used his congenial style throughout his political career: from police magistrate in Belleville to various state offices to the U.S. Senate, then as chairman of a Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
He used it to expand Scott Air Force Base, advocate for sound fiscal policies and advance many other ideas and projects. Republican friend Jim Thompson, a former Illinois governor, recalled: "He'd say, 'Listen, pal, we can get these things done.'" And they did.
A few years ago, Dixon, in an interview about the divisiveness in Washington, reflected on his own time there: "A lot of things were solved by quality efforts of both sides working together." Ever the optimist, he believed that political compromise would make a comeback.
America could use more politicians like Dixon, who regularly reached across the aisle to get things done.