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‘America’s Mayor’ reflects on 9/11, leadership, and Yogi Berra during On Topic speaking series

On Topic with Giuliani and Starr 092415

By Reagan Starr

A packed Waco Hall auditorium gave former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani – also known as America’s Mayor — a warm Texas welcome Wednesday evening as he walked onto the stage with Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr and then they settled into their seats for the first question.

The question wasn’t a softball.  “What do you think you did right, and what would you do differently, given the same circumstances,” Starr asked Giuliani about his response to the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

With what was clearly a heavy heart, Giuliani said he thought he handled the terrorist attack as well as possible given the circumstances. New York had been attacked before that day – albeit on a much smaller scale – so the city knew how to handle emergencies but Giuliani said he would strengthen his response and beef up everything he did.  Saying that being prepared for the unexpected is a critical skill for any leader, Giuliani also credited his faith with helping him get through all of those events in one piece.

Starr asked Giuliani – who ran for president in 2012 — what his foreign policy would be if he were in the White House today.  The former mayor spent a lot of time on this important question, elaborating on what he’d do if he were president and what he thought President Barack Obama — has done wrong during his time in office.

“The Iran agreement (that Obama is trying to push through Congress) would be out of the question if I were President today,” he said, adding that he believes the United States is in worse shape now than we were before we went into Iraq and Iran in the first place.

Giuliani said he is a firm believer in the importance of America’s worldwide supremacy, explaining that the country is in no way protected if we have a president that people outside the United States are not and will never be scared of.  He also said he strongly disagrees with President Obama’s decision to pull all of the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We need to occupy the areas where people are trying to leave and come here to kill us,” he said.  “Having a timetable is ‘stupid;’ you fight a war because there is a threat to you and the war does not end until the threat no longer exists.”

Giuliani did an exceptional job throughout the program of keeping the audience engaged, whether he was cracking a joke about our President or talking about something wrong that he did.

Ken Starr closed the night by allowing the audience to ask a few questions before dismissal. Giuliani’s favorite of these select questions was apparent: “Tell us your fondest memory of Yogi Berra.”

The question clearly moved Giuliani, who is well-known for his love of the New York Yankees and as a personal friend of Berra, who passed away Sept. 22.  A catcher himself during his youth, Giuliani spoke of his admiration of Berra’s catching ability and told a number of personal stories about the beloved Yankees player.

The final question of the night was “What is the best advice you have ever received?” Giuliani told the audience the story of his father being a very good boxer who had to stop fighting because he had terrible eyesight. Despite that, his father still had a passion for the sport and passed his love on to his son at Madison Square Garden on the night that Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier. After the fight, Giuliani’s father told him, “You only find out if a man is a good boxer when he gets knocked out. The way Ali got hit, got up, and then fought through the 15th round – he has the heart of a champion.”

The message:  Pursue your dreams and if you get knocked down, learn from it.

Reagan Starr of Tyler is a sophomore at Baylor majoring in corporate communications with a minor in political science.  He is not related to Baylor President Ken Starr, but is the son of former BAA President Keith Starr.                               

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