Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Only Nine Show Up To See Address by Former Attorney General Thornburgh

Only Nine Show Up To See Address by Former Attorney General Thornburgh

By Tim Haggerty Hoya Staff Writer

Only nine students showed up Tuesday to hear a GUSA lecture fund speech by former U.S. Attorney General and Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh, in which he outlined today’s political landscape.

Today is an exciting time in politics at the end of a decade of “extraordinary change and contradiction,” Thornburgh said, speaking in Reiss on his thoughts about “Governing in the New illenium.”

As he waited to begin, Thornburgh joked that students could be herded into the lecture by force, saying, “it [is] time to get the cattle prods out.”

Jeven Dew (SFS ’99) organized the event for the lecture fund. He said that he was surprised and disappointed by the low student turnout.

“I find it hard to believe that on a campus like this, which I’d like to think is politically interested, only nine people came out to hear the former attorney general, governor of Pennsylvania and under-secretary general of the U.N.,” Dew said.

Dew said that four of the nine audience members belonged to the lecture fund. One was a reporter from The Hoya.

Lecture Fund Chair Jessica Vianes (COL ’00) could not explain the student body’s apathy towards the speaker. “I don’t know . we did our normal advertising.” For the lecture fund, normal advertising consists of hanging fliers about a week before the event and again on the day of the event.

When a political figure is speaking, the lecture fund also gives fliers to professors in the government department and asks the professors to announce the speeches in their classes.

Vianes thought that the major reason for student absence could be “that this is crunch time with papers and tests.” She also thought that Thornburgh “is not quite as well known as some of our other speakers,” such as Ray Suarez, host of National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation,” and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif).

Vianes said that this was the smallest crowd she had seen at any Lecture Fund event this year. She said that about 80 people attended this year’s speech by Waters. In this case, it was Reiss 112, a large lecture hall, that sat nearly empty as Thornburgh spoke.

Dew said that he was expecting around 35 people. He said that the average lecture fund event has been around 40 or 45 people this year.

Dew said that he saw several factors working against the organizers. A Kosovo discussion panel drew a large crowd on Tuesday, the weather was beautiful and, as Vianes said, many students are especially busy at this time in the semester.

Besides the noon Kosovo panel, former White House press secretary Mike McMurry spoke on Tuesday at the Weintal Award for Diplomatic Reporting presentation.

Dew did not think Thornburgh could be held responsible for the low turnout. “His name was not as well known, but his position is,” he said.

Because of the modest crowd, Thornburgh abandoned his prepared speech in order to make a more informal presentation. For the first 25 minutes, Thornburgh described the political landscape in the context of the upcoming elections.

Thornburgh summarized a decade of “extraordinary change and contradiction,” where prosperity at home and conflict abroad have come together. He pointed out that early in the decade, the United States participated in a U.N.-sponsored coalition against Saddam Hussein. However, now the United States is going into Kosovo “almost alone . and now we don’t even pay our dues to the U.N.,” he said.

By cannibalizing Republican ideals and taking credit for successes in traditionally Republican areas of policy, such as economic growth, balanced budget, welfare reform at the state level and a reduced size of the federal government, President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) has kept his performance ratings high, Thornburgh said.

However, Clinton’s impeachment and round after round of scandal have kept the president’s personal approval ratings consistently low, Thornburgh noted.

He also predicted a showdown between frontrunners George W. Bush and Al Gore in the upcoming presidential elections. While Bush is untested in national campaigning and world issues, Gore “is tied to Clinton, tainted by fundraising scandals, and has a reputation as a stiff,” Thornburgh said.

For about 35 minutes following his speech, Thornburgh fielded questions from the few listeners present. Questions varied from civil rights and police brutality to possible vice presidential candidates to Jesse “The Body” Ventura, former professional wrestler and now governor of Minnesota.

Questioners participated in casual conversation with Thornburgh.

Thornburgh ended his speech with a pitch to the nine listeners. “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” and with near record-low levels of voter turnout over the last elections, Thornburgh underscored the importance of political involvement.

“Ours is a government of laws and not men, but it takes good men and women to make our system work. We have the opportunity to make the 21st century a real American century, and this is a challenge worth taking on, but it will require real leadership.”

More to Discover