George W. Bush to give talk in Calgary
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 12, 2009 7:38PM EST
CALGARY - A Calgary audience might be the first group to hear George W. Bush's take on the state of the world since he stepped down as U.S. president earlier this year.
Bush is to speak to an anticipated audience of 1,500 at a private event in the city on March 17, according to organizers Andy McCreath and Christian Darbyshire.
"It's our understanding it's one of the first -- if not the first -- times he'll speak since leaving office," said Geoff Pradella, vice-president of public and government affairs at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, which is partnering in the event.
"I imagine it'll be a reflection on issues that arose during his time in office, and maybe drawing from that his perspectives on the way forward."
Darbyshire declined to give details on how much tickets will cost, what Bush will speak about or whether the former president is being paid for his appearance.
A spokesman with the Office of George W. Bush in Dallas also declined comment.
Invitations to the event say Bush will share his thoughts "on eight momentous years in the Oval Office." The former president will also speak about "the challenges facing the world in the 21st century."
Bush left office Jan. 20 when President Barack Obama was sworn in. His image was bruised at the time, with the highest disapproval rating since Richard Nixon and a panel of historians ranking him as the worst president in American history.
In his farewell speech as president, Bush said he hoped people will remember that he was willing to make tough decisions through eight years in office that included the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and ensuing military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An appearance in Calgary is a good way for the former president to try "dipping his toe" in the public arena, said David Taras, a University of Calgary political science professor.
"I think he's probably nervous about how he'll be received, and so Calgary's a safe place," he said, pointing out the city is very conservative and pro-American.
Yet he predicted that with opinion polls suggesting people across Canada blame Bush for the current global economic crisis, the reception will be polite, but not enthusiastic.
"There is a lot of anger and there is a sense it was a failed presidency."
Interest from people in hearing the former president speak has already been strong, said Pradella.
"We've had what I would describe as a pretty favourable response so far," he said.
Bush's speech, combined with similar visits from other former high-ranking politicians such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, show Calgary's "growing international stature," he added.
The event is not open to the public or media.
Pradella said while the chamber is not providing financial support for the event, it is doing marketing work and offering tickets to some members.
Other partners include the Ernst & Young accounting firm, the Bennett Jones law firm and the Calgary CFA Society, a professional organization for financial analysts.