by Christie Reed
Opening with a one-liner and an update on scandal in Washington, former presidential press secretary Marlin Fitzwater sent roars of laughter through the formal ensemble of guests at the first annual President’s Dinner at the Ontario Airport Marriott on Jan. 20.
According to University of La Verne President, Dr. Stephen Morgan, the dinner raised about $17,000.
“The purpose of the dinner was two-fold. The first purpose was to provide an event that attracted members of the community who might not otherwise come to University of La Verne events.
“Our secondary reason for the dinner was a fund raising event,” said Dr. Morgan.
“The original idea came from the Trustee Development Committee,” said Deborah Mandabach, director of public relations. “They decided he would be a great speaker and thought he was informative and entertaining and appropriate for the event.”
After a brief introduction by Roger Barkley, KABC radio talk show host and ULV Board of Trustees member, Fitzwater stepped up to the podium and into the limelight once again after leaving his tenure as press secretary to Ronald Reagan and George Bush far behind.
He turned a speech on “The People and Politics of Washington” into an entertaining presentation of his life and times in the White House, including the controversial scandals. From Reagan’s sleeping through cabinet meetings to Bush vomiting on the President of Japan, there was never a dull moment for Fitzwater.
He also appealed to the guests by bringing the issue of the recent White House scandal to the forefront. From Hillary Clinton to Newt Gingrich, there is always controversy at the Capital, he said.
As the longest serving press secretary in United States history, Fitzwater has dealt with all the typical rumors surrounding the first family, but he feels Clinton and his staff have taken more blows than the average White House administration.
“The Clinton Administration has had more than an average rate of personnel problems,” said Fitzwater and he believes this accounts for the scandals galore.
Fitzwater also pinpointed the high and low points of Clinton’s term thus far. He emphasized the infamous Whitewater scandal involving the first lady, and at the end laughed out loud at the insane media hype surrounding the first family.
With the healthcare issue being the primary focus of the 1994 election, Fitzwater felt Clinton lived up to his promise. He praised him for “doing a good job implementing the liberal agenda he was elected to install.”
According to Fitzwater, Clinton also managed to improve the economy, give foreign policy direction and break ground in the budget deficit dilemma.
This analysis of Clinton’s presidency conjured memories of his best times in office, which were the “personal episodes,” between himself and the U.S. presidents.
Among these vivid memories, was Bush standing toe to toe with Gorbachev during their peace talks, and the reaction of a war-torn people in Czechoslovakia, to the “raw voice of freedom.”
These episodes and 10 years of collective stories led Fitzwater to the conclusion that the U.S. really is “the strongest and best country in the world.”
“We are the nation that caused the Berlin Wall to fall, we freed the Jews in Ethiopia, and we told Saddam Hussein to get out of Kuwait and he did,” said Fitzwater.
“Marlin Fitzwater was a very gracious person and I thought did a fine job as our speaker,” said Dr. Morgan. “He was a very informal and casual fellow. It was fun to have the chance to get acquainted with him.”
His presentation left a spirit of nationalism in the dining hall and created the perfect atmosphere for the presentation of the president’s award to Larry M. Rinehart, president of Pomona First Federal and ULV alumni. Rinehart was honored for his extraordinary contribution of leadership and support to civic and charitable organizations in the Inland Empire.
“It was successful beyond our expectations,” said Mandabach.