For 20 years, California’s Bakersfield Business Conference was a gem of a gathering in the Golden State, produced by the law firm of Borton Petrini LLP. Top business executives, American politicians, military spokesmen and veterans, plus world leaders, gave speeches at the all-day event on the campus of California State University, Bakersfield. I covered the event for its past six or seven years. When the two-decade anniversary was reached, the event was retired. Except the fans wouldn’t let it die.
So five years ago the law firm decided to produce the event once again. Cards, letters and phone calls from past attendees convinced those in charge that the demand was too great to ignore. But instead of an annual meeting, it was planned for every five years. This year, I cleared my schedule to attend the early October conference.
Quotes from the list of top-name speakers as well as second-tier speakers would take up this entire column, and some didn’t take the additional time to meet with the press after their speeches. But some did.
Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a nationally syndicated columnist published twice-a-week in 150 newspapers. (Why he’s not in Nevada, I can’t say.) He is the most widely read Latino columnist in the nation. My one question to him was about Gov. Brian Sandoval. Did Navarrette see a bright future for him, possibly as a future commander in chief?
“I’m a fan” he answered. He said Sandoval was not considered by politicians as heading a red state or a blue state, partially because “he stays away from Washington.” More broadly, “he’s considered a ‘Western governor.’” Navarrette didn’t answer my question directly, but said Sandoval’s situation serves him well on the national scene.
Allen B. West is a former Florida congressman and Army captain who served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Currently, he is the executive director and vice chairman of the board of directors of the National Center for Policy Analysis. Another reporter asked him about recent negative reports concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs. West said that union rules should be changed so that VA employees who don’t perform can be replaced more easily.
When West later began to touch on fiscal responsibility, I asked if our growing national debt and red ink made us a Banana Republic. He agreed, quoting Marine Corps Gen. William Mullen. “He felt the greatest threat to the United States is the debt.” And West added, “The U.S. cannot continue to spend because the budget will be flatlined.”
At the end of the official program, after such individuals as former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, radio host Laura Ingraham, former presidential candidate Ben Carson, and NRA President Wayne LaPierre (among many others) spoke, a trio of retired heroes took the stage: Army Medal of Honor winner Leroy Petry, Capt. Daniel Quinn and Capt. Richard Phillips.
Filmgoers will recall that Tom Hanks portrayed Phillips in a movie about him being hijacked by Somali pirates. Quinn was disciplined by the Army (and later retired) after he and a sergeant beat a local Afghan police official they concluded had been raping a small boy. Petry lost his right hand when he tossed away a hand grenade, saving the lives of two of his men. “I was faced with a big challenge,” he said. But he would later realize that “my life would go on.”
And Quinn, concerning his confrontation with the Afghan commander and subsequent ending of his military career, said if put in the same position again to defend a small boy, “I would have made the same decision 100 times.”
Regarding last month’s column item about a new VA clinic opening in Pahrump, it’s set for 11:30 a.m. Nov. 10. The public is invited. The address is 2100 E. Calvada Blvd.
Chuck N. Baker is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and a Purple Heart recipient. Every other Sunday he discusses veterans issues over several Lotus Broadcasting AM radio stations in Southern Nevada.