Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett said in his speech on Saturday morning, “If we focus on failure, we get failure; if we focus on success, we get success.”

Bennett, a prominent voice on education, drugs and culture and the author or editor of more than a dozen books, spoke Saturday morning on “Leadership and Values” in the Palestra as part of Meliora Weekend.

Speaking of his time as Secretary of Education under President Reagan, Bennett said that focusing on the weaker schools and their students’ failures will achieve nothing. Rather, educators must have confidence in every student and push the weaker students to strive for success.

Bennett also served as the Director of National Drug Control Policy under the former President Bush.

During the question and answer session immediately following the speech, a female high school junior asked Bennett,'”If alcohol is legal, why is marijuana illegal?” Bennett conceded that alcohol is a dangerous substance, but marijuana would add several of its own problems if it were legalized.

Earlier in his speech, Bennett commented on growing up in the ’60s, a period in which, according to Bennett, approximately half of college-aged students were smoking marijuana. He assured the audience, “I didn’t smoke ? I didn’t inhale.”

During his time working under Bush, Bennett earned the title “drug czar.” While this name makes Bennett seem like “Lord of Drugs” it actually refers to his record for reducing drug use by 60 percent while working under Bush.

“Raising the price and lowering the purity,” as well as cracking down on drugs in public housing were the key to success, Bennett said.

Reactions to Bennett’s speech were positive on the whole. Audience member Tracy Welch enjoyed the experience. “I liked seeing these people speak for an hour, because when they’re on TV, you only hear them for a few minutes. You get a much more human picture of them when watching in person.”

“I thought that Bill Bennett was really engaging. He talked about his first-hand experience working with schools and cracking down on drugs, which supported his points?he didn’t just give his opinions,” freshman Enrico Castellucci said.

Castellucci’s parents agreed. “Bennett seems like a friendly politician with an open mind. He maintains an honest outlook and is true to his beliefs, not just those of the Republican Party,” Enrico’s father, Giovanni Castellucci, added.

Bennett, formerly a Democrat, is now a conservative Republican.

John Turner ’55 and his wife Carol ’53 have read many of Bennett’s books and followed his work over the years.

“Bill Bennett perceives the world as it is and has some pretty good solutions as to how to improve it,” John Turner said.

“It’s good to see honesty and morality in politics. I hope he continues to serve our country,” Carol Turner added.

Although Bennett is not in politics currently, he is a co-director of Empower America and a distinguished fellow of the Heritage Foundation. These Washington, D.C. based organizations are centers for political and public policy research and analysis.

In April of 2002, Bennett founded Americans for Victory Over Terrorism ? AVOT, whose mission is “to educate the public about the nature and threat of terrorist organizations and states,” and to reinforce public opinion in support of government actions against terrorism. Notable books that Bennett has written include “Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism,” “The Book of Virtues” and “The Children’s Book of Heroes.” Bennett is also the founder of K12, an internet based K-12 school.

“How are poker and politics in Washington similar?” was the final question that Bennett answered. His response ? “Bluffing works in both places.”

Yunis can be reached at

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