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Boeing and Bond share the spotlight at 70th anniversary ceremony

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 27, 2009 - Boeing's C-17 cargo plane and its F-15 and F/A-18 fighter planes shared some of the spotlight Thursday with U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond during the aircraft company's celebration of the 70th anniversary of its manufacturing in St. Louis.

(The bulk of those years were spent as McDonnell-Douglas, until its merger with Boeing in 1997.)

Bond joined fellow Sen. Claire McCaskill, U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan, and Boeing president Jim Albaugh on stage before several hundred Boeing employees and other regional officials in a hangar set up to highlight the St. Louis site's defense production of numerous aircraft and weapons.

All three area members of Congress lauded the workers and their products, and pledged to do what they could to persuade the U.S. military to continue purchasing the C-17 and the fighter planes.

Bond led the praise by declaring that the aircrafts' records for quality and service were unmatched. Large video screens noted Boeing's production of 1,600 F-15 Eagles, 400th F/A-18 Super Hornets, 200 C-17s and 221 T-45 Goshawks.

But McCaskill, D-Mo., shifted the focus from planes to people when she began her remarks by calling for the crowd to recognize the state's senior Republican in Congress as Boeing's longstanding chief defender on Capitol Hill.

"He has been a tremendous champion for this company,'' McCaskill said, as Bond sat behind her in stunned silence. She noted that Bond wasn't seeking re-election in 2010, and added, "this company and this country and will miss his presence."

McCaskill then sought to bolster her own standing with the company and its employees (and dispel any lingering concerns), by noting that she sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "You have had the back of the American military for years and years and years,'' she said.

Now, McCaskill continued, "I will have your back."

Soon after, St. Louis Labor Council president Bob Soutiere praised all three area members of Congress, but like McCaskill, singled out Bond for special mention.

"Senator, thank you so much for what you've done for Boeing,'' the labor leader said.

Afterwards, Boeing executives offered their accolades. "He's a legend. He's going to be missed,'' said George Roman, Boeing's vice president of government operations.

Added John Van Gels, Boeing's vice president of operations: "There's only one of him."

Bond seemed a bit taken aback by all the kind words. "I was very gratified,'' he said. "Most grateful and humbled by it." 


Aside from tons of footage of Boeing aircraft roaring through the air, videos shown at Thursday's celebration also touched on ;history -- offering vintage images of the early years of McDonnell Douglas, and vivid color accounts of three presidential visits: John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s, George H. W. Bush in 1992 and George W. Bush in 2003.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.