Before a packed house in Irvine Auditorium, controversial former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to explain the actions he took during his term in office and gave his views on the meaning of true leadership.
Netanyahu addressed the University community Oct. 6 as the fall speaker
for Connaissance, the student group that sponsors big-name speakers.
Netanyahu walked around the stage with a hand-held microphone and charmed with anecdotes and occasional jokes.
Netanyahu said the two things a true leader needs is a vision of values and a willingness to stand up for those beliefs. [Leadership] is not about being in a position of leadership, he said. True leadership is always about struggle.
Netanyahu blamed his own struggles to gain a secure peace and freedom for his country on Israels being the only democracy in the Middle East and having an economy based on socialist ideals. In our part of the world, you cant have peace without security...[and] if the key to peace is security, the key to prosperity is freedom, he said.
Netanyahu went on to describe his achievements during his term in office. His goals for Israel were to reduce the deficit, cut inflation, privatize assets, support deregulation and free the currency, he said.
Acknowledging the rise of unemployment that occurred while he was Prime Minister, Netanyahu explained, If you believe in your values and are willing to fight for them, there is always a cost. Netanyahu said unemployment was the most pressing issue in his countrys recent elections.
In the question-and-answer period that followed the speech, Netanyahu was asked what personal experiences prepared him for his role as Prime Minister. Netanyahu credited his high school debating club. He refused to share his opinion about the current Israeli government.
More than one audience member who asked questions praised him as their inspiration, and many gave him a standing ovation as he left the stage.
Netanyahu concluded his visit by profusely thanking the United States and other friends of Israel for their support of common values.
Originally published on October 14, 1999