“And that,” finishes Alberto Gonzales, former Attorney General of the United States, “is the closest I ever came to being your president.” The room erupts in laughter.
It’s about 8:00 a.m. on Thursday morning at the Sally Wells Building in Macon County. Judge Gonzales, who served for two years as advisor to President George W. Bush, is the keynote speaker at the 2014 Friends of Scouting Macon County Breakfast. It’s a fundraiser for the Middle Tennessee Boy Scouts, and tables are full of local dignitaries and businessmen.
Judge Gonzales has just finished telling a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of his experience during President Bush’s State of the Union Address in 2007. Apparently, during any State of the Union address, one member of the president’s cabinet is asked not to attend the speech, so that in the event of a catastrophe, there will be an individual still available to take over the presidency.
Gonzales was chosen that year. He, along with chief members of every major governmental department, was taken up into the air in a government plane during the minutes leading up to the address. Gonzales said that as he sat in that plane and looked around at all of those leaders, each holding thick binders containing emergency protocol, he wondered if they would be up to the task of leading the US, should such a thing fall to them. They watched the address on a TV screen, like most other Americans that day.
“And that,” he quipped, “is the closest I ever came to being your president.”
Gonzales, who was involved in Boy Scouts of America a young boy, recently made himself available to the organization as a speaker. When organizers of the Macon County event heard this, they quickly jumped at the opportunity.
Gonzales’ speech, in addition to featuring insider stories like the one above, was on the nature of leadership as it relates to the American story. He shared about his own humble upbringing, and the opportunities and hard work that led to his becoming a Harvard graduate and eventual advisor to “the most powerful man in the free world.”
Other speakers included Pete Williston, Barry Doss, Boy Scout Kyle Davis, and Judge John Wootten.
Gonzales currently holds the Doyle Rogers Distinguished Chair of Law at Belmont University, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, National Security Law and First Amendment Law. He is also counsel at a Nashville-based law firm, Waller.
The breakfast raised over $8,000 for the Middle Tennessee Boy Scouts.