In speech, Gonzales exhorts students to take on civic duty
(Editor’s Note: Student Life regrets that no audio of Gonzales’ speech is available. This was due to restrictions on recording devices within the venue.)
After a several months of hype for Alberto Gonzales’ speech on campus, the former Attorney General calmly walked onto the stage of the 560 Building, wearing a traditional suit with an American Flag pin, to a mixture of cheers and jeers, and delivered a 24-minute speech of his American dream to University students.
“We truly live in a country where dreams come true. This is why I believe America is worth fighting for and dying for,” said Gonzales in his speech. “She [my mother] never dreamed I would take her from the cotton fields to the Oval Office.”
Included in the audience were members of the College Democrats, Peace Coalition and other campus detractors dressed in bright orange prison jump suits. While these protesters did not disturb the speech and only turned their backs to him instead of clapping, Gonzales did acknowledge them by alluding to the challenges that face the United States in the war on terror.
“It is not enough to protest,” said Gonzales. “What choices are you prepared to make to bring abut change?”
Despite the anticipation, members of the College Republicans said that only about 600 tickets were given away before the event out of an approximate 1,000 available tickets.
While most students said they did not expect him to address any of his actions that he has become infamous for, such as the alleged illegal authorization of torturing, College Republicans Public Relations Officer Brinton Callaghan said that Gonzales did address these hard issues.
“He addressed the issues that I think people wanted to hear,” said Callaghan.
Gonzales did concede that he made some mistakes during his tenure but that he served his country to the best of his ability, although he did not get into any specifics during his speech.
“In the pursuit of great causes, mistakes will be made,” said Gonzales. “During my arena serving the President my face was marred by sweat, dust and blood.”
During his speech, Gonzales repeatedly made references comparing himself and the Bush administration to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, suggesting that Lincoln was highly criticized during his presidency and is now highly revered.
According to Gonzales, the truths about his actions will be revealed in years to come.
“There is a difference between what you do and what people say you do. It’s going to take years for the entire story to be told,” said Gonzales. “If you worry about criticism you end up paralyzed and do nothing.”
After his relatively uncontroversial speech about his personal story of triumph, there was a 14 minute question-and-answer session in which Gonzales was forced to tackle and address some of the more pressing issues.
College Republican Vice-President Ryan Winograd, a sophomore, moderated the session and sorted through a large pile of questions in order to find appropriate questions to ask the former attorney general of the United States.
Gonzales recognized this deliberate omission of question with a sense of humor.
“They’re pretty bad?” said Gonzales.
The audience laughed as Winograd casually responded to Gonzales, saying “Some of these just aren’t questions.”
Gonzales gave a candid response regarding his views of torture after Winograd asked a question that read, “How do you make the distinction between who should be tortured and who should not?”
“We don’t torture,” Gonzales succinctly responded.
Winograd decided to rephrase the question to, “When is it appropriate to use enhanced interrogation techniques?”
While he did not give specifics about the use of those tactics, Gonzales responded by saying that since members of Al Qaeda do not follow the rules of war set by the Geneva Convention like the U.S soldiers do, they are not entitled to the same rights as normal prisoners of war are.
“Terrorists do not fight according to the laws of war, and so are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention,” said Gonzales.
Gonzales also refuted allegations that he dismissed the legitimacy of the Geneva Convention when he was quoted in the past as describing the provisions from the Convention as quaint.
“I said this statement to have people look into whether certain provisions of the Geneva Convention make sense,” said Gonzales.
While members of the College Republicans said they think that Gonzales adequately addressed these controversial issues, College Democrats President Ben Guthorn said he disagrees.
“I don’t think his speech was worth $30,000, I don’t think any part of this experience was worth $30,000,” said Guthorn. “Frankly, if you’re going to speak, then speak to us honestly; don’t shuffle around the question, which is, I think, what he did on numerous occasions tonight.”
Ultimately, Gonzales respectfully addressed the student body and said that they have a responsibility to serve their country in any capacity, just like he did.
“America’s greatness lays in its people,” said Gonzales. “The choices you make in the next five, 10, 20 years will have a profound impact on me and my children.”
-With additional reporting by Puneet Kollipara and Mindy Wang
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