A sold-out crowd greeted David Gergen Thursday morning, Nov. 29, in the Tamayo Ballroom of the DoubleTree Hotel in San Antonio.
Gergen is a professor for public service, a CNN senior political analyst and the director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. Gergen’s speech was entitled Eyewitness to Power: Leadership in America. It referenced his career as a political adviser to four former U.S. presidents: Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. The lecture was a part of the Trinity University Policy Maker Breakfast Series.
After a breakfast, audience members listened as Gergen analyzed the recent presidential race, which he deemed “bruising, yet important.” He compared the candidates to race horses, calling Obama the faster of the pair and a much better campaigner than Romney. Obama won both the 2008 and 2012 elections with more than 50 percent of the vote each time.
Moreover, Gergen attributed part of Obama’s victory to money and the types of donations fielded by each campaign.
“Obama faced no opponents in the primaries, which allowed him to raise a lot more [than Romney],” Gergen said. “Romney was forced to spend money simply to win the primaries.”
Gergen continued by describing some of the issues that the Obama administration now faces. He cites the looming fiscal cliff as one of the foremost priorities on their agenda. The Bush (Jr.) and Obama tax cuts will expire in December of this year unless they are extended. If they are not, both the United States and world economies would suffer. A second concern involves overreaching boundaries and partisan gridlock.
“Obama cannot try to stick it to the Republicans. He needs to be more comfortable with politics, where the relationships need work and you must be good at the inside game, at bargaining,” Gergen said.
On that note, Gergen talked about Obama’s hesitancy regarding playing the political game. He referenced the recent movie “Lincoln” and the dirty work that President Lincoln did to secure the passage of the 13th Amendment. Other issues included a more hostile China, the economic shape of the European community and the escalating Iranian situation.
Looking to the future, Gergen spoke about the Millennial Generation (college-age students) and veterans. He called veterans “a silver lining,” as they now seek to serve the country they once defended abroad. He has witnessed, in these individuals, a true resurgence of the American spirit.
“There are a lot of patriots now that want to work for our country,” Gergen said.
Junior Avantika Krishna attended this installment of the Trinity University Policy Maker Breakfast Series and found Gergen’s comments regarding the Millennial Generation particularly interesting.
“I appreciated what he had to say about the millennial generation. His faith in us and optimism in the future provide a refreshing change to the cynicism and pessimism that currently defines Washington,” Krishna said.
In a question-and-answer period, Gergen urged the audience to pay less attention to politicians’ and public servants’ personal lives. This was part of a reply about a question over General Petraeus’ recent affair with his biographer.
Additionally, Gergen answered several questions about the futures of various political figures, including Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Gergen believes that Clinton will take some time off from politics before she considers the presidency again. He also said that the Obama administration, in his opinion, should have given Clinton more credit for her tireless service.
Gergen, a self-admitted short-term pessimist and long-term optimist, left the audience members with the following quote:
“I urge you, “˜Do not lose faith in the future of this country.'”