What a difference 16 months makes.

During that short span, the Better Government Association has embarked on an ambitious journey to become a more powerful force for reform and good government throughout Illinois.

It may not always be an easy trip but it can be especially fun and rewarding when you travel with friends.

So it’s encouraging that nearly 850 people joined us at yesterday’s BGA Annual Award Luncheon. This year’s attendees came to honor our guest, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, while also showing their support for the re-energized BGA.

On behalf of the BGA, I want to again thank Justice Stevens for attending the awards luncheon. Throughout his visit, Justice Stevens showed the charm, wit and intelligence that made him a High Court legend and a hometown favorite.

What’s more, Justice Stevens surely connected with many long-suffering Chicago Cub fans in the audience by deftly chronicling his lifelong, but always bittersweet, love for the North Side ball club. I am a die-hard White Sox fan but I truly hope Justice Stevens will soon get to see his beloved Cubbies in the World Series.

It was also an honor to hear Judge Ann Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals introduce her longtime friend Justice Stevens and publicly thank him for fighting for the advancement of women and minorities within the legal profession.

During the event, the BGA also told its story and shared its plans for the future.

Among the highlights was a wonderfully produced video showcasing the recent innovations, changes and improvements at the BGA. These efforts include:

The awards luncheon was a great event. My thanks to everyone who helped make it a success.

Yes, the BGA has made great strides in a short time.

But the journey has only begun.