Bradley talks basketball, candidacy with students

Jennifer Leopoldt

With his 6-foot-5-inch frame and booming voice, former senator and presidential contender Bill Bradley can grab and hold a crowd’s attention.

But on Friday night in Cahn Auditorium he captivated the crowd of about 900 people with the same charisma that characterized his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2000.

“If more of us thought of the 10,000 things we can do, we’d have a more accountable democracy and a richer community — and our individual lives would be more fulfilled,” Bradley said.

For some audience members, Bradley has reached iconic status.

At one point a female voice from the audience shouted, “Please run for president again!”

Bradley, who lost the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000 to Al Gore, said he doubted he would run in the 2004 election, although he did not exclude the possibility of running again.

College Democrats co-sponsored Friday’s speech with the political science and American studies departments. The group’s president, Tina Valkanoff, said they were able to bring Bradley to campus because University President Henry Bienen helped reduce the speaker’s fee.

Bienen, a friend of Bradley’s, told the audience he and Bradley met during Bradley’s 1978 campaign for New Jersey senator. Bienen mentioned many of Bradley’s achievements, including his gold medal for basketball in the 1964 Olympics and his work on the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

Students and community members applauded when Bradley took the stage. He began with stories from his basketball career “back in the Paleolithic Era.”

“For many years I made my living running around drafty arenas in short pants,” Bradley joked.

Bradley later took a serious tone and discussed changes that have happened in the past decade. Ten years ago most people would not have foreseen the end of apartheid, he said.

Because predicting the future is impossible, Bradley said people should watch for key trends that will shape the world.

“Globalization and technological change have the potential of delivering a higher worldwide standard of living than ever seen before if handled properly,” he said.

Bradley also talked about living in an insecure world overshadowed by terrorism. Comparing it to his childhood during the Cold War, he explained he had a diagram of a bomb shelter complete with space for his comics, food and basketball.

“See, the premise was that even after a nuclear holocaust there would be basketball,” said Bradley, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982 after winning two championships with the New York Knicks.

Valkanoff said she hoped students learned that Bradley is a different breed of politician.

“I hope they’ll be reminded that not all politicians fall into the category of money-driven, self-interested or whatever cliche you care to inject,” said Valkanoff, a Weinberg senior.

Many audience members said the speech met their expectations.

“His views matched what I thought,” said Rajib Nandi, a McCormick junior who wished Bradley had talked more about India and Pakistan. “(But) he should have elaborated a little more on the issue if he talked about globalization so much.”