Baylor Shines In National Spotlight As Host Of President Bush's Economic Forum
With White House staffers comparing the planning of the President's Economic Forum to organizing a G-8 Summit, Baylor University pulled off an extraordinary feat Aug. 13, hosting President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, members of the President's Cabinet, high-profile business leaders and others for a nationally televised discussion of key economic issues.
Less than 25 minutes east of the President's home in Crawford, Baylor played a major role in the President's Economic Forum. The event began at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday with breakout sessions held at one of the university's newest buildings, the $33 million Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center located on the picturesque banks of the Brazos River.
After the 90-minute sessions, the President, Vice President and participants moved across University Parks Drive to Baylor's Glennis McCrary Music Building for a plenary session in the 1,000-seat Jones Concert Hall. Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr., seated next to President Bush and Vice President Cheney on the concert hall stage, moderated the wrap-up session, which included remarks from the various Cabinet secretaries and panel members and closed with an address from President Bush, who thanked Baylor for its hospitality.
"Dr. Sloan, thanks for having us all. And I want you to thank all the good folks here at Baylor University for putting on a great show," President Bush said. "I know a lot of people worked hard. I'm really glad a lot of folks from around the country got to see Baylor. It's a fantastic university, and I want to thank the folks here who came from all around the country. Welcome to central Texas in the middle of August."
As moderator, Dr. Sloan had the honor of delivering a five-minute opening address to the gathered participants, guests and members of the media.
"Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, members of the Cabinet, distinguished guests, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to host the President's Economic Forum," Dr. Sloan said. "We are honored at your presence and humbled at the opportunity to extend our hospitality at such an historic event. I would also like to acknowledge the world-wide audience that is viewing today's proceedings on television; we welcome you warmly to Baylor University, as well."
Dr. Sloan remarked that Baylor was pleased to host the forum because many of Baylor's own efforts mirror the President's aspirations, such as improving healthcare for all Americans, strengthening entrepreneurial vitality, understanding the impact of technology on the economy and recognizing the critical importance of ethics in business.
"We at Baylor have a strong history of education in the area of ethics in the professions, be it in business, law or medicine," Dr. Sloan said. "Beyond the specific research we conduct through several centers on campus, our students are challenged to think critically about how their professional decisions will impact the broader notions of fairness, justice and accountability before humanity and God."
Dr. Sloan told the President and the audience that Baylor's vocation is to create leaders who are "capable, compassionate, competitive and courageous" and can influence the world. Baylor's president ended his remarks with a mention of Baylor 2012, the university's bold 10-year vision.
"Now is a time for bold planning - for trying to envision the future," Dr. Sloan said. "Within the course of a decade, Baylor intends to enter the top tier of American universities while strengthening and deepening its distinctive faith-based mission. It is an extraordinary honor to share with you our hopes for this institution and our support as we strive toward economic excellence."
FORUM GUEST LIST A 'WHO'S WHO'
The President's Economic Forum featured the largest gathering of the Bush Administration's Cabinet outside of Washington, D.C.
The forum sessions, which were held in the various class and courtrooms within Baylor Law School, focused on economic recovery and job creation, corporate responsibility, small investors and retirement security, small business and regulatory relief, education and workers, trade and agriculture, technology and innovation, and health care. Each panel was chaired by a senior government official and featured a guest speaker with expertise on the session's subject matter.
The impressive guest list from President Bush's administration included:
Paul O'Neill, U.S. Treasury Secretary;
Don Evans, U.S. Commerce Secretary;
Tommy Thompson, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary;
Andrew Card, Chief of Staff;
Glenn Hubbard, Chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisors;
Ann Combs, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration;
Mitch Daniels, Director of the Office of Management and Budget;
Hector Barreto, Small Business Administrator;
Elaine Chao, U.S. Labor Secretary;
Rod Paige, U.S. Education Secretary;
Ann Veneman, U.S. Agriculture Secretary;
Ambassador Robert Zoellick, U.S. Trade Representative;
Spencer Abraham, U.S. Energy Secretary;
Lawrence B. Lindsey, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council; and
Floyd Kvamme, Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
The guest list of more than 250 business leaders, small business owners, industry experts, union members, academics, university presidents and economists also included a who's who of well-known executives, such as Charles Schwab, chair and co-CEO of Charles Schwab Corp.; Jeffrey Bluestein, chair and CEO of Harley-Davidson Motor Co.; Pamela Thomas-Graham, president and CEO of CNBC; Truett Cathy, founder and CEO of Chick-fil-A Inc.; Ken Chenault, chair and CEO of American Express Co.; Dick Grasso, chair and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange; Carly Fiorina, chair and CEO of Hewlett-Packard; John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems; Meg Whitman, president and CEO of eBay; Glenn Barton, chair and CEO of Caterpillar; and Jerry Yang, founder and "Chief Yahoo" of Yahoo!
Baylor's Director of Youth Programs Don Mattingly volunteered as a media relations "shepherd," assisting business leaders and Cabinet members with a multitude of afternoon interviews scheduled in the SLC. While preparing to help Administrator Barreto, Mattingly found himself in conversation with Bluestein of Harley-Davidson.
"He said that this was his first visit to Baylor and that it was a tremendous campus," Mattingly said. "He really appreciated us hosting this forum."
Higher education leaders who visited Baylor as forum participants were Wayne Clough, president of Georgia Institute of Technology; Marye Anne Fox, chancellor of North Carolina State University; Peter McPherson, president of Michigan State University; Charles Vest, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Bob King, chancellor of State University of New York, Albany; and Eduardo Padron, president of Miami-Dade Community College. Faculty members and students attended the event from such universities as Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, Yale, Penn, Dartmouth, the University of Texas and Columbia.
BAYLOR BUSINESS SCHOOL REPRESENTED
In addition to Dr. Sloan, faculty and students from Baylor's Hankamer School of Business were invited to participate in the forum. Dr. Thomas M. Kelly, professor of economics and the director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, attended the session on small business and regulatory relief that was led by OMD Director Daniels and Administrator Barreto.
"The facilities at the law school were unbelievable," Dr. Kelly said. "The tiered seating in the classrooms made it easy to see everyone, and the participants loved the layout of each of the rooms."
Dr. Kelly said his panel on small business and government regulation showed the optimistic attitude many small business owners have toward the economy.
"Everyone recognized that yes, we have problems, we're in a recession, we're dealing with corporate scandals, but the American economy is resilient," he said. "The group was geographically diverse, there were women and minorities represented, and all were very much on the same page on what government should try to do and what they shouldn't do. No one is looking for a government handout."
Dr. Joseph A. McKinney, professor of economics and The Ben H. Williams Professor of International Economics, was a member of the trade and agriculture panel. However, his most memorable moment, he said, happened while he waited at the Waco Convention Center Tuesday morning to clear security.
"I found myself in a small circle engaged in conversation with five very well-known economists - Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University, Martin Feldstein of Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research, Greg Mankiw also of Harvard, Mark Pauly of the University of Pennsylvania, and Allen Sinai, who is Chief Global Economist for Decision Economics," McKinney said. "I thought to myself, 'This can't be happening here in Waco, Texas.'"
As a university professor, McKinney said it interesting to hear concrete examples of how international trade benefits business firms.
"Trade agreements are often sold to the public by saying that freer trade will create more jobs. Economists realize that increased trade will affect the composition of employment, but not the aggregate level of employment," he said. "In our session the discussion focused on the fact that wages are on average higher in exporting industries than in import-competing industries, and therefore that increased trade implies higher wages on average."
McKinney said his panel also emphasized an improved standard of living, especially for those at the lower end of the income scale that results from lower prices when trade barriers are removed.
Other Baylor participants were Dr. Terry S. Maness, dean of Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, who attended the session on economic recovery and job creation; Dr. Reagan M. Ramsower, dean of libraries and Baylor's chief information officer, who attended the session on technology and innovation; Dr. William R. Reichenstein, professor finance and The Pat and Thomas R. Powers Chair of Investment Management, who discussed small investors and retirement security; Dr. William Thomas, professor of accounting and The J.E. Bush Professor of Accounting, who attended the corporate responsibility session; and Dr. James W. Henderson, The Ben H. Williams Professor of Economics, who was a member of the healthcare panel.
"I was simply impressed by being in the same program as so many leaders of different parts of our economy and country and to see they have many of the same concerns as I do and we do here in central Texas," Dean Maness said.
Baylor MBA students Neil Luft, Ken Jones and Jim Regan were among several students from throughout the U.S. who discussed the state of today's economy with government and business leaders. Luft was a member of the technology and innovation panel, Jones discussed small business and regulation with his panel, and Regan attended the session on trade and agriculture.
"I appreciate all the hard work Baylor staff and volunteers put in to this effort to make the forum a success, and I appreciate the contribution our faculty and students made in their panel discussions," Dean Maness said.