On Thursday, April 25, Governor Bob Riley came to Foy Auditorium as a guest speaker for the Harbert College of Business Leadership Speaker Series to impart some of his leadership knowledge to Auburn students.
His speech covered a wide range of subjects, including his time in politics, business, the current state of the country and plenty of advice.
“Everything you do for the rest of your life, and I mean this sincerely, is going to be dependent on whether or not you can face the fear of someone saying it can’t be done,” Riley said.
Riley served as governor of Alabama from 2003 to 2011 and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997 to 2003, representing Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Lee County. Prior to his time in politics, however, Riley was a businessman.
“I was the most non-political person that has ever lived, until I was 52 years old,” he said.
Riley did not explain what finally caused him to run for the House of Representatives, but as the business man he was, he knew that the federal government could not keep spending more money than they had.
“I didn’t want my granddaughter to owe $170,000 the day she was born,” Riley said. “It took six years, but [Congress] balanced the budget, for the first time in 50 years.”
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According to a CNN Fact Check, the federal budget was balanced in 1998 under the administration of President Bill Clinton, only two years after Riley was elected to the House of Representatives. The last time the federal budget was balanced prior to 1998 was in 1969 under President Richard Nixon, only 29 years before.
Riley said the representatives he served alongside in Washington came from all walks of life and many different careers.
Your chosen discipline is not what defines your possibilities, but your persistence and self-confidence, Riley said.
“If you believe it, you not only can make it work, you can become an absolute leader,” he said.
He expressed a pride in Alabama and its citizens, what they do and what they stand for. He noted improvements in education, the manufacturing industry and the aerospace industry across the state.
And his pride for Alabama doesn’t stop there. The future he sees for the state is bright, and he made numerous predictions for business to grow even more in the coming years.
“I hope I live long enough that people in Alabama get that pride,” Riley said. “To say we’re from Alabama, it means more. It’s a quality of life.”
Near the end of his speech, he spoke about some of the issues facing the U.S. today, including the increasing division and polarization of two sides of America. He believes disobedience to law, wealth inequality and a spirit of intolerance have only made things worse. He believes that students should do everything they can to make the world a better place.
“Everything that you do is preparing you for one thing, to go out and make the world better,” he said. “If you do that, you’ll be successful.”
After the speech, Adam Arnedsen, a 2017 Auburn graduate in psychology, said he was expecting more information on how to be a leader and how Riley ran his businesses, but he still enjoyed the speech.
Abdul Almofeez, sophomore in finance, said he was also expecting Riley to share more of his experiences. One life philosophy stood out for him, though.
“Don’t care about what people say about you. Just believe in yourself,” Almofeez said.
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