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‘Hot’ speeches lauded

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David Gergen

David Gergen

OREM — After the controversy surrounding the appearance of controversial filmmaker Michael Moore at Utah Valley State College, one might think the college would be wary of bringing politically active speakers to campus.

But in introducing former White House adviser David Gergen at the college Thursday night, President William Sederburg said UVSC leaders sought Gergen as an answer to requests for a more "erudite, reflective" political speaker.

"One person told me, 'What you need at UVSC is someone who will shed some light — instead of heat — on political issues,' " Sederburg said. "And the unanimous choice is David Gergen."

Gergen advised Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and currently serves as editor-at-large of U.S. News and World Report and director of Harvard University's Center for Public Leadership.

In an interview with the Deseret Morning News before his speech, Gergen said he thought despite the controversy, the speeches by Moore and conservative talk show host Sean Hannity were positive for the campus in overwhelmingly Republican Utah Valley.

"As uncomfortable as it may be sometimes to hear alternative voices, it's healthy to challenge your own perspective from time to time. The students who graduate from this college are going to be much better off if they're well-equipped to handle robust debate in a very, very messy world than if they're sheltered from alternative perspectives."

Gergen was a bit disappointed a debate between Moore and Hannity never materialized.

"That would have really been a rousing occasion," he said.

In his UVSC address, Gergen said he sees the United States as being at hinge-points in history in terms of national politics, George W. Bush's presidency and the country's place in the world.

Gergen said he's seen dramatic changes over the past 40 years in terms of political dominance.

"We've moved from a country where Republicans were a distinct minority as a percentage of voters to where Republicans have moved into a slight majority, 51-48 (percent) in this last national election," he said.

He said he sees the Republican Party moving to increase that percentage but doesn't know whether they will defy history and succeed.

Likewise, Gergen said he thinks only time will tell whether Bush will be a successful or reckless leader. But either way, Gergen said Bush is on his way to becoming one of the most significant presidents, as only two other Republican presidents have served two terms.

Gergen added that Bush has tough problems to solve, among them maintaining the country's stature in the world community. "We need to try to shape the world so it is a more prosperous, democratic and free place. That is a very large undertaking, and there is a growing danger that we are going to slip." -->

One of the places we are starting to slip, according to Gergen, is in our hold on technical jobs, which are increasingly moving overseas.

He said the way to keep those jobs is through a better-educated citizenry.

During the interview, Gergen said he thinks his most important role right now is to pass on what he's learned to the next generation — a generation that, while more optimistic and service-oriented than some previous ones, is reluctant to enter the political arena.

"They want to achieve change through their own personal volunteering, but they're not as interested in voting or joining political movements or going out and working in politics," he said. "We need to inspire them somehow. I think politicians have to get in and clean up the system, but young people need to get in and clean it up, too."

E-mail: mdecker@desnews.com