Former President, Accomplished Entrepreneurs Speak at Judson University’s Inaugural World Leaders Forum
(Elgin, Ill. - April 14, 2011) More than 1,300 area business leaders and dignitaries visited Judson University in Elgin on Wednesday, April 13, joining students, staff and faculty for the Christian school's inaugural World Leaders Forum.
A central message to the evening's main event was the value of personal principles regarding faith and freedom. In his keynote address, 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush encouraged the crowd of professionals to follow their principles.
"Principles last forever," said the President. "I say I came to Washington with a set of principles and I've left Washington with those same principles still in place."
President Bush spoke candidly with the audience, often using anecdotes included in his recent memoir, Decision Points, to illustrate lessons on leadership he learned through his presidency.
"Be ready to make decisions," Bush said adamantly to the group of local leaders and entrepreneurs. "A set of values that won't change is essential when leading an organization in the midst of a changing environment."
He also discussed the need to build strong relationships to better understand leaders with other views and experiences. As the president, Bush said he met many times with world leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Paramount Leader Hu Jintao to better understand their perspectives and learn their concerns.
President Bush used his description of the oval office to demonstrate many of the principles that helped shape and guide him as a leader. Paintings selected for his office of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln; the desk at which he worked that had once been used by Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy; the carpet that graced the floor all played a part in demonstrating his leadership while in office.
Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was among the dignitaries who attended the event. Bush frequently referenced Hastert's leadership and support when they were on Capitol Hill together during most of President Bush's time in the White House.
"A lot of the things that President Bush talked about I lived along with him, whether it's 9/11 or tax cuts or all these things. So it was interesting to get his perspective," Hastert said following the event. "Of course I've read his book but these are the things that are inbred. My background and college education was probably a lot like these students at Judson. Certain values, certain ideals you want to set forth. I never dreamed I was ever going to be in politics. I never dreamed I would be a member of Congress. I never dreamed I was going to be Speaker of the House, but I think the values you have, if you work hard and are true to those values and your goals, it's amazing what can happen. I think that is probably what's happened with the President as well."
President Bush was presented with a painting titled “President Bush” by Vitaly Mikhailov, which was commissioned by Judson University and John Carlson of La Gallerie in St. Charles, Ill. The painting was commissioned with the hope that it would one day reside in President Bush’s presidential library, which will be located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
Photos from the inaugural World Leaders Forum at Judson University on April 13, 2011. (Photos by Kevin Sherman '09 and Robb Davidson '08)
Earlier in the evening President Bush received another significant gift while attended a VIP Reception along with 225 business leaders and sponsors of the World Leaders Forum. During the reception, Elgin Mayor Ed Schock presented President Bush with a 100-year-old Elgin men’s pocket watch, which Schock said has more meaning since the famous watches were once produced in Elgin. Following the reception formalities VIP guests were given the opportunity to meet and have a photo with the former president.
After President Bush's keynote address, Judson trustee Carol Thompson moderated a formal question and answer session in which the president responded to questions from Judson students, staff and faculty. A panel of entrepreneurs also answered questions submitted from the Judson community which were moderated by Judson's Dean of the School of Leadership and Business, Dr. Tom Berliner. Nathan Latka of Lujure Media, Lisa Canning of The Institute of Arts Entrepreneurship, and Kraig Kleeman of Blaire Group shared wisdom and guiding principles of entrepreneurship and leadership that helped them become successful.
When asked about balancing ethics and profits during the moderated question and answer session for accomplished entrepreneurs, panelist Kraig Kleeman of Blaire Group contributed to that idea stating, "Ethics versus profits is an issue on the minds of the American people since the recent economic downturn. When I think about ethics versus profits, AGI, Lehman Brothers, and many other corporate names come to mind. Greed is a catalyst for financial meltdown. Entrepreneurs can never ever trade ethics for profit. Never. Never. Never. End of story."
The evening ended with Judson University President Dr. Jerry B. Cain thanking the audience for taking part in the university’s first World Leaders Forum.
“Hearing from President Bush tonight mirrored what I found when reading his memoir,” said Cain in a statement following the ceremony. “Here is a man worthy to be president who demonstrated that faith and values influence our decisions and choices. I want Judson University students and the community to feel a sense of pride and confidence from this event. This inaugural World Leaders Forum demonstrates how Judson offers quality learning experiences that complement our excellent academics and serve to instill the values and principles of a Christian education in our students and in the leaders of tomorrow.”
Cain also promised the audience that information will soon be released regarding the speaker and date for World Leaders Forum 2012. The Forum, which has been established to begin an endowment fund for Judson's new entrepreneurial program, will bring recognized world leaders to Judson and the surrounding community annually. In the last 130 years, only eight presidents have visited the Elgin community. The administrators at Judson hope that through the World Leaders Forum, visits from presidents and world leaders will be a regular occurrence.