Answers to the toughest questions facing the nation are out there if the people are willing to confront them, said former pro basketball player, U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful Bill Bradley.
Bradley spoke to an audience of approximately 500 in the Givens Performing Arts Center on February 25 as a part of UNC Pembroke’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
“We’re in the grip of an old story, essentially a can’t-do story that pervades American politics,” Bradley said. “But we’re a can-do people. Once you face the truth, there are answers.”
The economy, political reform, energy, health care and education were in Bradley’s cross hairs.
“The future of our nation will not be secured by the power of our military, but by the intelligence of our people,” Bradley said. “It’s either going to get done in America’s public schools, or it won’t happen.”
Bradley would establish a national accountability program, bolster low-performing schools and double teacher pay to attract outstanding talent to the profession.
Public financing for federal elections would remove special interests from the equation, and congressional redistricting would promote competitive elections and better elected officials, he proposed. There was one more political reform on Bradley’s mind.
“To produce one of the greatest changes in American politics, get 80 percent turnout of registered voters,” he said. “To do it, change elections to Saturday and Sunday. How hard is that?”
The former senator from New Jersey said Americans must save more money to reduce dependence on foreign investment and to drive more efficient autos to eliminate dependence on foreign oil.
“If you think it will never happen .. guess what? .. it never will,” Bradley said. “Ultimately, America’s future is not in the hands of the president or Congress; ultimately, it’s in your hands. Americans must rediscover their power as citizens.
“We’re at a time when great things can happen,” he continued. “We can do anything.”
In the question and answer period that followed, the conversation turned to the presidential campaign. Bradley strongly endorsed Sen. Barack Obama.
“I used to say, ‘you can tell people the truth and win an election,’” he said. “Obama does it 100 times better than I did.
“Obama is openly practicing the politics of idealism, and it’s very inspiring,” he said. “When the light shines on politicians, they swell; when the light shines on Obama, he reflects it back.”
Answering a question about immigration, Bradley said “we are a nation of immigrants.” He suggested a national identification card to help regulate foreign visitors and a path to citizenship for those already here illegally and willing to work.
“A wall is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of in my life,” he said. “Walls don’t work.”
Since leaving political life, Bradley has written a book (“The New American Story;” 2007; Random House) and started an inspirational series, titled “American Voices,” on Sirius satellite radio. In the audience, he found a candidate for an upcoming show.
“I’m a first generation Mexican-American, a school teacher, a single mother and enrolled in graduate school,” the woman said.
“You’re the kind of hard working person who has made America great,” Bradley responded. “Let’s give her a hand.”
For ticket information, please call the GPAC box office at 910.521.6361.