Former Secretary of State James Baker took time to address students and faculty about leadership and the current political climate last week. The lecture was sponsored by UMHB and The Salado Institute for the Humanities.
Baker served under three presidents – Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He was Reagan’s White House chief of staff from 1981-1985. He then became secretary of treasury from 1985 to 1988. Baker was secretary of state for the Bush administration from 1989 to 1992.
In his speech on September 9, Baker cited Bush, Reagan and Winston Churchill as examples of great leaders, all of whom faced conflict and doubt.
But they chose to do what was right, whether it was dealing with the USSR, Hitler or Iraq, despite criticism from the public.
“He knew what he needed to do,” he said of each leader. “And he did it.”
Baker stressed that the issues the world is facing cannot be solved by Americans alone, but they must be leaders in the global coalition towards progress.
“Today we face a very complex metric of global challenges that demand serious and prolonged attention from countries that are becoming more and more interdependent,” he said. “The history of the 21st century will really be dependent on the quality of leadership that America provides in the coming years.”
The one-time campaign leader for Ronald Reagan also candidly expressed his disdain for deficient spending in the speech. Baker helped lead the country out of the recession during the 1980s.
“We’re spending like drunken sailors,” he said referencing the bailouts and the health care bill. “They have made no effort what so ever for free trade. We know free trade creates economic growth.”
In an interview after the speech, Baker gave his opinion on how to fix the economy.
“You’d have to cut across the board, and have to restrain spending. We have such a terrible debt situation now, everything will have to be on the table.”
While the political affiliation of the audience varied, Baker was “well qualified to speak on the subject,” Dr. Randy O’Rear said at the conclusion of the speech.
Andy Evans, a junior sports management and finance double major, was chosen to ask Sec. Baker a question during the lecture. He asked about the value of future inflation.
“Having someone like Sec. Baker here just shows how dedicated the school is to bringing in the best of the best to speak to us,” Evans said. “He has accomplished so much.”
Baker also had much to say about the current state of the Republican party and the impact of the new Tea Party in the interview.
“The Tea Party is probably a good thing in Texas,” he said. “The tea parties in the general election will be with the republicans, and that is good for us. In some states they may nominate someone who would have less chance against an established democrat.”