Wednesday, February 8, 2012

NADA Keynote Speaker: President George W. Bush

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) drew 24,000 attendees from their base of 16,000 members or 90% of the country's car dealers to their convention in Las Vegas last weekend which ended, as usual, to their credit, with an impressive keynote speaker to leave the audience with inspiration, motivation, hope and, in this case, religion. This was my sixth NADA convention and in the past I've seen Richard Branson, President George H. W. Bush together with President Bill Clinton, Boone Pickens and Condoleezza Rice and have always left with a warm and fuzzy feeling and renewed ambition.

On Monday, at 4:06pm. President George W. Bush was warmly received by thousands of car dealers who frequently erupted into applause during his 12 minutes of prepared remarks which made numerous references to his book, Decision Points, which I have not read so can't measure how much new content we heard in the live venue at the Las Vegas Convention Center. He said there were many decisions in a complex environment and the book is anecdotal. He said, "we are safer".

He threw in many jokes, like being relieved when he confirmed that his birth certificate was aligned with his parents marriage certificate because he was born while his father was attending Yale. And there was serious honesty in admitting that had he not quit drinking that he would never have been President.

He stressed his desire to remain useful and is building an institute at Southern Methodist University to train school principals, defend the marketplace, promote the desire to be free by helping democracies and fight desease by helping women in Africa, specifically in Rwanda, deal with cervical cancer. He told the story of Rwanda orphans responding to his remark that "God is good" with "All the time". It lead to frequent "God is good" mentions that evetually had the audience responding, "All the time".

4:18pm: Questions from NADA Chairman Stephen Wade that brought some expected and maybe unexpected answers.

President Bush's "best pal" on the global stage was British Prime Minister Tony Blair with mentions going to Australia Prime Minister John Howard and German Chancellor Angela Merkle. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin was difficult and then told a story which is apparently in his book, about when he introduced President Putin to his Scottish terrier, Barney, on a visit to the U.S. presidential retreat, Camp David and Putin commented on his small size. When Bush visited Russia, Putin's Lab came charging over and Putin commented "bigger, stronger, faster than Barney". 
Miss most about being President? "being pampered" and "being Commander in Chief".
What does he miss least? He said the "noise", "the spotlight can be harsh" but then said "I'm glad I did it", "it was an awesome experience".
"Do-overs": the aircraft carrier banner ("mission accomplished" on the USS Lincoln in 2003 referring to Iraq) and the Katrina flyover which he justisfied by saying that landing would have been a distraction to the hurricane ground efforts.
"I would have done it again": cutting taxes, interogation techniques and Saddam Hussein.
On the lighter side: in response to the relationship of his father and President Clinton, "mother says he's your new step-brother".
On the Past President's Club, he says he and Clinton were both born in 1946 and "he's a good guy".
On his father, President George H.W. Bush, he says, "I would not be sitting here if not for the unconditional love of my father" and "1992 was the worst year of my life when my father lost the election".
On seeking advice: "find smart capable people to express there opinions if I like them or not". His "go to guy" was a circle of people depending on the subject and he rattled off Condy (Rice), (Josh) Bolten, (Karl) Rove. 
His advice: "Understand your committments in life", "We will remain leader of the free world, it will require decent policy", "We cycle through these moments".
"Latter years?" "I'm up for suggestions".

4:53pm. after 47 minutes: "God is good" and the crowd responded, "All the time" - Bush 43 walked off stage leaving us with: OK, I might buy your book.

Next year, the NADA convention returns to Orlando with more top speakers I'm sure.