Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, with his wife Patti, speaks to the media Wednesday, March 14, 2012 in Chicago. The 55-year-old Democrat is due to report to a prison in Colorado on Thursday to begin serving a 14-year sentence, making him the second Illinois governor in a row to go to prison for corruption. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich delivered his final stump speech Wednesday.
Blagojevich, who heads to prison in Colorado Thursday, navigated through more than 50 reporters and assembled supporters to deliver a farewell message to Illinoisans before he takes off for his 14 year sentence in a federal prison.
"I have to go to prison," Blagojevich said during his nearly 12-minute speech. "That's a hard word for me to say. ... but that is the reality as it is today and now we have to face this."
In his inimitable, always campaigning style, Blagojevich thanked supporters who've reached out to him during his trial and since his conviction and expressed thanks to the voters of Illinois who twice elected him to the highest office in the land. Afterward, he signed autographs and talked candidly with reporters -- even quoting poetry.
During the address he expressed remorse for the recorded phone calls that landed him in legal trouble in the first place.
"I told the judge back in December that I certainly made my share of mistakes. I take responsibility and I'm responsible. I told him for the things that I said, the things that I talked about doing. The political talk about how to raise campaign funds, the things that we believed were political horse trades and legal. I take responsibility for saying those things," he said.
Above all, however, Blagojevich expressed regret that he wouldn't be around for the next 14 years to watch his family grow.
In an emotional portion of his speech Blagojevich wondered aloud about how to talk to his children about the "dark" reality that faces him tomorrow.
How do you make sense of all this?" he said. "What do you tell your children when calamity strikes and hardship comes? What do you do when disaster hits your family and you leave behind your children and your wife? Tomorrow when I leave, and saying goodbye to Patti and my kids will the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
He kissed his wife and told the crowd that he knew that while he would be away from his children and would not be able to help them and check on them, he felt confident that she would work tirelessly to raise them right.
"I know they have the best mother in the world," he said before turning to his wife and saying: "I love you too honey."
He also used the news event to draw attention to the plight of Saint Scholastica Academy, which is closing because of financial problems. The school is where his daughter, Amy, attends.
It was an emotional press conference, filled with all the flair that made Blagojevich famous, but also with touching moments that evoked sympathy for the convicted governor.
In the end, his message to Illinoisans was simple.
"I will see you around."