|The Messenger 10.17.07
At first, the report Andrew Card heard was that a small, twin-engine prop plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.
“The reaction was, what a horrible accident,” Card said. “The pilot must have had a heart attack.”
Card, President Bush’s chief of staff, was with the president that morning on Sept. 11, 2001, as the president was preparing to address a classroom of students at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla.
“When the door shut after the president entered the classroom, that’s when I was told it wasn’t a small twin-engine prop plane, it was a commercial jet liner,” Card recalled. “Then a nanosecond later, it seems like, I was told, ‘Oh my gosh, another plane has hit the other tower.’”
Card will provide more information about that historic day when he speaks in Jackson on Tuesday. He and Leon Panetta, chief of staff for President Clinton, are the keynote speakers for Union University’s 11th annual Scholarship Banquet at the Carl Perkins Civic Center. They will provide an insider’s look at the Bush and Clinton administrations.
“The place from which a chief of staff sees a president work is unique,” Card said. “Leon Panetta and I had a unique position serving presidents at particularly challenging times during their presidency.”
“The decisions they have to make are never easy decisions,” he continued. “They’re always hard decisions. And I’ll talk about how I watched the president make the toughest of decisions.”
After hearing the news about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, Card realized the incident couldn’t have been an accident or coincidence.
“I performed a test that every chief of staff has to perform: Does the president need to know?” Card said. “And yes, he needed to know, and I had to decide what to tell him and how to tell him.
“I thought a lot about it in a short period of time, but I knew that the president’s burdens had become infinitely heavy.”
While Sept. 11 was the defining moment of Card’s tenure as chief of staff, Panetta may be best remembered for his role in balancing the federal budget.
“I helped to fashion the first economic plan, and did a lot to put us on a track toward a balanced budget, so I feel good about that,” Panetta said. “As chief of staff, one of the things I was able to do was to bring some order to the White House, some discipline and some focus. I think that ultimately helped the president get re-elected.”
Panetta called the current budget situation “a tragedy” and lamented the fact that by 2010, the United States may have a deficit of $10 trillion.
“I think it’s going to hurt our economy,” he said. “But more importantly, it’s going to hurt our country, in terms of our ability to find resources and be able to bring some stability to our financial situation.”
Union’s Board of Presidential Associates issues keynote invitations each year for the purpose of funding student scholarships. The previous 10 events generated a total of more than $4 million. Previous keynote speakers at Union’s Scholarship Banquet include George H.W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lady Margaret Thatcher, Colin Powell, James Baker, Rudolph Giuliani, John Major, Robert Dole, Winston S. Churchill and Lou Holtz.
Once again this year, table sponsorships begin at $1,000 and individual seats are available at $125.
Lead sponsors for this year’s Scholarship Banquet are BancorpSouth, Black & Decker Industrial Products Group, Schilling Enterprises and White Investments LLC (Roy L. White, president and chief executive officer).
Premier sponsors are Benny and Norma Fesmire, FirstBank, Jack and Zan Holmes, IMPACT360/John and Trudy White, The Jackson Sun, Nortek Inc./Lloyd Hansen, Northwestern Mutual Financial Network/Rod and Amy Parker, Jack and Faye Porter, Mike and Trish Weeks, West Tennessee Healthcare, Medical Education Technologies Inc. and Keith and Beverly Absher.
Sponsorship opportunities are still available at all levels. For ticket information, including table sponsorships and individual balcony seating, contact Union’s Office of University Relations at (731) 661-5050.