The On Topic conversation with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani began Wednesday night with the experiences the former mayor is best known for: the Sept. 11 attacks on the Big Apple.
President and Chancellor Ken Starr asked Giuliani about his response to the attacks, as well as his leadership techniques and mayoral strategies.
Starr reminded the audience of the country’s mourning after September 11th almost exactly fourteen years ago. He also brought to mind the symbol of healing that Giuliani represented to the American people at that time.
“The leadership that Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed was just extraordinary,” Starr said. “I think all Americans saw that Rudy rose above politics and partisanship. Rudy was the mayor of everybody.”
Throughout their conversation the audience was alternately provoked to laughter and collective groans of sympathy.
“Every time he would say something the audience was in full agreement. He was very in tune with what everyone was feeling,” said Waco junior Emily Neel.
Seated in a yellow armchair next to his old friend and colleague President Starr, Giuliani went through his, and the country’s, responses on that day. Giuliani and the audience were most affected when remembering the death of Barbara Olson, the wife of the U.S. Solicitor General and a dear friend of Giuliani’s. The day’s personal losses were perhaps what took the greatest toll on him, Giuliani said.
“I think the toughest thing was containing your emotions and then saying to yourself, ‘I’ll have time for this later,’” Giuliani said.
Giuliani’s ability to overcome the loss of life in his city was an inspiration to members of the audience.
“I’m really inspired by what he said. His ability to overcome after 9/11 was really motivating, knowing that when he had hardships he pushed through,” said Joshua Neel, who attended On Topic along with his sister Emily.
In addition to his role in bringing New York City back from 9/11, Giuliani was instrumental in reducing the city’s crime rate by 65% during his tenure as mayor.
Starr accounted this success to his friend’s leadership principles. Giuliani said that he identifies the strongest qualities of a leader in firm goals, relentless preparation, and interpersonal communication. All of these, Giuliani said, have helped him through his political and legal careers.
“One of the things that was so exciting about tonight is that there’s a real glory, there’s something hopeful about dedicating your time to political life,” said Manassas, Va. graduate student Adam Myers.
Giuliani said that this sense of hope is necessary for any field that students wish to pursue. The final question of the night, which came from the audience, asked Giuliani what piece of advice he would give to young people. Giuliani chose his advice from what his father told him after witnessing a boxing match between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier.
“My father had a story about boxers. You only find out if a man is a really good boxer when he gets knocked down,” Giuliani said. “Remember, if you are a young person in particular, pursue your dreams, and if you get knocked down a few times, just learn from it.”