Former White House Chief of Staff, Andrew Card: "The greatest invitation I ever received"

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Andrew Card, former White House chief of staff, delivered the University of New England's 2011 George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture to a packed audience of over 350 UNE students, faculty and community members at UNE’s Campus Center in Biddeford September 22. Special invited honorees, the 41st President George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Barbara Bush, were in attendance.

Acting dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, Andrew Card, touched upon a range of topics, from the U.S. Constitution to 9-11 conspiracy theories, in his lecture titled, "Whispered Interruption: Bush Leads a Changed World," at University of New England this evening. Card shared his personal recollections of September 11, calling it “the day that innocence was violated.”

As chief of staff, Card was the individual who informed President George W. Bush of the second plane striking the second tower at the World Trade Center; the photo of him whispering into the president’s ear has become a piece of cultural history.

Card opened his remarks by reminding the audience that September is “a truly amazing month,” but for different reason: “On September 17, we celebrate our Constitution. There wouldn’t be a United States of America if it weren’t for the Constitution.” In touching upon all the amendments, Card explained: “You accept the invitation of the Constitution. The invitation is phenomenal, but few people accept it.”

He credited his grandmother, a suffragette, for his interest in public service. She said, “It’s your government; get involved….The greatest invitation I ever received was the invitation to serve Article 2 in the Constitution…the invitation to serve the president of the United States.”

In his talk, which lasted a little more than an hour and included a question-and-answer period, Card shared personal stories and observances, many focused on September 11.“That was the day the fog of war made it difficult to understand what had really happened…We changed that day. We gave up labels that divide us and found labels that unite us.”

When asked how he felt about being considered an iconic part of cultural history, Card responded, “The truth is, I’m a little bit embarrassed. I recognize that what happened to me was rare...for that message to be delivered in a public forum. I was not trying to create iconic moments for me, or for the president…He had an impossibly difficult job.”

Card was asked how he would respond to the “vocal minority” who assert that 9-11 is a hoax. He called it a relevant question he recently had to address in a significant gathering of European business leaders, to which he replied, “I am offended… Conspiracy theorists are wrong.”

Card ended his talk by saying, “There are no greater role models than George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush.”

In her remarks, UNE President Danielle Ripich, Ph.D., cited the Bushes’ enduring relationship with Maine and UNE, and their unparalleled commitment to service, international affairs, education and philanthropy.

She quoted from President Bush’s 1989 inaugural address, when he stated, "I see history as a book with many pages, and each day we fill a page with acts of hopefulness and meaning.”

Reflecting on how the world has changed since then, Ripich said, “The pages of history have challenged all of us, but…even in the midst of these challenges, every day we continue to see – on our campus and in our communities – the many ‘thousand points of light’ that President Bush has called us to be.”

Andrew H. Card Jr., has held a variety of top-level governmental positions under three U.S. presidents. He served as White House chief of staff under President George W. Bush from 2001 until 2006. Card served as deputy chief of staff and, subsequently, as secretary of transportation under President George H.W. Bush. He also was appointed as special assistant and later deputy assistant to the president, as well as director of intergovernmental affairs by President Ronald Reagan.

This is the second high-profile speaker in the George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture Series, an annual event honoring the legacy of President and Mrs. Bush as political and community leaders. Last year’s inaugural lecture featured Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, who shared “Reflections on the End of the Cold War.”

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Kathleen Taggersell
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