by Barbara Sherf
Former Philadelphia Mayor and former two-term Governor Ed Rendell was in true form talking about his recently released book titled “A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make us Great” at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival.
Speaking Sunday, Sept. 30, at the SugarLoaf Campus of Chestnut Hill College, Rendell noted that he has sold 20,000 copies and “for a book that has no sex and no violence, it’s doing very well,” he quipped.
When not doing book signings, Rendell is busy making speeches, practicing law with national firm Ballard Spahr, analyzing politics for MSNBC and covering Eagles games for Comcast SportsNet. He is also trying to spark everyday citizens to “ at least write a letter to their congressional representative on the many pressing issues facing this country.”
“I shouldn’t be eligible for Medicare, but I am – I shouldn’t be collecting Social Security but there is no system in place for me to send the checks back,” he said during the 30-minute talk that was followed by questions from the audience.
The book title came about after an incident in December 2010 when a football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings was canceled because of a looming snowstorm, even though the storm never materialized. Rendell, incredulous that the game had been canceled, proclaimed that America had become a “nation of wusses.”
The remark made national news and inspired him to delve deeper into bigger issues that had been and continue to be ‘wussified.’
When asked about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recorded remarks at a $50,000 a plate fund raiser in which he characterized 47 percent of Americans as being dependent on the government and feeling “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it,” Rendell pointed to the comments as being another example of what he terms “wussification.”
“He was a wuss for not saying publicly what he felt,” Rendell said. “It was a stupid statement. It was a wuss statement, and now he has backed off of it and that makes him even more of a wuss.”
He cited examples of his thesis throughout history, including the “founding of our country by individuals who were risk takers.”
“We were a bunch of shopkeepers and farmers who had the audacity to think we could take on the greatest army and navy in the world –the British—and those men knew what the consequences were,” he said. “We were risk takers throughout history when we built the Erie Canal and the Golden Gate Bridge. We were risk takers, and we did big bold things.”
He referred to President John F. Kennedy taking a huge risk in 1962 when he said “we’ll put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.”
“My favorite Kennedy quote was when he made that announcement,” Rendell said, quoting Kennedy: “We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard.”
Rendell said he wrote the book late at night and felt the need to do so for several reasons. First, he said he wanted to communicate to young people that while public service is very difficult, it is also very rewarding. He also said he wanted to debunk the idea the government is the enemy.
He spoke of President Obama standing up for his national health care reform, saying “if he loses in November, he can walk out of the White House with his head held high.”
“He is not a wuss – he had the courage to fight for his convictions,” Rendell said.
He said he wanted to write down his stories and memories from his experiences as a former Philadelphia district attorney, Mayor, Governor and Democratic National Committee Chair “while they were fresh.”
Rendell joked that he does not want to seek higher office and particularly that of the President of the United States because he wouldn’t want to “spend three years out of my life getting there.”
“If I woke up one morning and I was President, that would be great, but I wouldn’t want to spend three years in New Hampshire and Iowa getting there,” he said.
Former Philadelphia Mayor Bill Green, a Chestnut Hill resident who was in the audience, commented on Rendell’s talk while standing in line to get his book signed.
“Eddie is a great guy, and he says it like it is,” Green said . “I feel a certain comradeship with him because we both assumed the position as mayor at times when the City was in terrible financial shape.”
Rendell read only the final paragraph from his book:
“Whatever happens in the future, I have loved the opportunity I have been given to serve. In the first 43 years I have worked since graduating from law school, I have never made anything our society would call “real money,” and I haven’t missed it for a moment. Each day I have gotten up knowing that I’m using my talent and energy to make people’s lives better. It’s an incredible feeling that makes up for a lot. Would I do it over again? You bet!”