The Renegade Rip

‘The Meaning of Courage’

Amber Garcia

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He made it after all.

To the surprise of many in the audience, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani walked across the stage in the main tent at the end of the 18th annual Bakersfield Business Conference to a standing ovation from an explosive audience that cheered, whistled and waved American flags.

But it was no easy task getting him there.

Giuliani was flown “on a rocket” to the Oct. 12 conference at California State University, Bakersfield, joked George Martin, managing partner of the legal firm Borton, Petrini & Conron LLP, which put on the event. He said Giuliani actually took a very fast private jet at the last minute, under police escort, directly to Meadows Field from a memorial for New York City firefighters at Madison Square Garden.

After lunch was served at about 1 p.m., Martin told the members of the press in the media tent that Giuliani was coming, but asked them not to inform the attendees that Giuliani might attend in person because it wasn’t certain whether he would make it.

“What we didn’t want was to put people on a roller coaster,” Martin said during an interview after the conference. “This wasn’t a ploy. … It would have been grossly unfair for me to walk out there and say, ‘You know, I think Rudy Giuliani is going to be here, he’s on his way,’ and then have him not make it. It would have destroyed the feeling in that tent.”

Martin also said he does not expect to get complaints from those attendees who left the event early, assuming Giuliani would not be there in person.

“They shouldn’t be (angry),” Martin said. “I warned them about 10 times during the day, ‘Do not leave before five o’clock.’ We warned them, don’t leave.”

Those who did stay got a taste of Giuliani’s serious side, which many may have seen on television during the 9/11 crisis, as well as a more playful one.

The first words he spoke introducing himself were in a voice of a stereotypical Italian mobster from New York.

“How many of you watch ‘The Sopranos’? You can admit it,” Giuliani said. “I want you to pay attention to one thing, because it’s the part of the show that I feel the most pride in. … Please notice that Tony Soprano drives to New Jersey. I believe I had a role in getting them all there.”

Giuliani said despite the fact it had been a difficult day for him to reflect on all of the firefighters who lost their lives last year, attending the conference was wonderful.

“I’m very, very glad I was able to make it … it really is wonderful to walk out here and see you, with all the American flags, your tremendous strength and enthusiasm for this country,” Giuliani said.

He said he disagrees with the people who maintain that America is more dangerous now, after the attacks, than before.

“There’s a tendency sometimes in America, to see the world as we would like it to be. … Then we miss, sometimes, the harsh reality of the dangers that we face. So Sept. 11, if it did nothing else, it woke us up. It said to us, ‘This is the world we have to face, this is the world we have to deal with,’ and just in that alone, you’re safer. When you know the danger that you face, you’re safer than when you don’t.”

Giuliani said he supports President Bush’s decisions to deal with Iraq, and that Bush was his new hero.

“We have to focus on ending global terrorism. We have to end Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. … And if we’ve learned any lesson at all from history, the lesson that we’ve learned is that if you stand up to a dictator, a terrorist, a bully of massive proportions, at an earlier stage, you save more lives than if you wait and appease.”

During his speech, he spoke of the need for learning the true meaning of courage, which he learned from his father on his father’s death bed. He said courage was not the absence of fear, but the management of it.

“We have to learn the meaning of courage. … If you go into a battle or if you go into a fire and you don’t feel fear, that isn’t courage, that’s insanity. To be courageous you have to feel fear, you have to know you’re in danger. Then you have to manage your fear in order to overcome the thing that is causing it.”

He also spoke of the need to be prepared for whatever crisis may happen and that that is the key to handling it.

“Our governments, federal, state and local, have to … I call it prepare relentlessly. On Sept. 11, when I first realized how horrible this attack was, my first reaction was that we were in uncharted territory. … We had not anticipated airplanes being used as missiles to crash into our buildings. … Think about what the worst thing that could happen is and be ready for it. Hopefully, God willing, it won’t happen. But if you’re prepared for it, if it does happen, you’ll be able to save more lives.”

He also said everyone has to be more conscious of security, and be willing to surrender some privacy in order to be safe. He told the audience of a security check he experienced while attending the Super Bowl.

“I was told my car would be searched and got a little annoyed,” Giuliani said. “I said, ‘Don’t they trust me?’ And then I saw a van over on the side of the road being searched. I looked closer and I couldn’t believe my eyes. The person being searched going into the Super Bowl was Joe Montana. So I got out and volunteered to be searched. If Joe Montana can be searched going in, I mean they should just give him the Super Bowl, I can be searched and you can be searched.”

Giuliani said the best way to get through any difficult time is with humor, and that people always have to think optimistically.

He told a story of the president visiting the World Trade Center shortly after the attacks and talking to the workers there.

When he and the president left, there were about 20,000 people on the streets waving flags and holding signs saying “Mr. President, we love you.”

“(They were) blowing him kisses, trying to wave to him and tell him how much they loved and supported him,” Giuliani said. “I said (to myself), ‘You got to have humor and the president is a regular guy so I won’t get in trouble (with him) if I do this.’ I said ‘Mr. President, I don’t know how to tell you this, but none of these people voted for you.’ ”

The event ended with Giuliani being joined onstage by New York fire battalion commander Richard Picciotto and special guest country singer Lee Greenwood, the “Three Tenors” as Martin called them, to perform “God Bless the U.S.A.”

The audience sang along as Giuliani and Picciotto reached into the audience to receive flags to wave. The crowd roared as all the men hugged each other, including Martin.

“We gambled that he would make it, and he did,” Martin said in the interview. “It was a very special moment in the crowd. … We’ve had some enormous endings. This is right up there with them.”

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‘The Meaning of Courage’