Former U.S. Attorney General and Florida gubernatorial candidate Janet Reno visited campus last week to discuss her career, her views and her brief stint on Saturday Night Live, in which she remembers going to the NBC studio and meeting Will Ferrell, who was wearing her signature blue suit.
“Sometimes we have to laugh at ourselves a little more than we do, and we have to laugh together,” Reno said to the audience.
During her lecture, Reno admitted that she never dreamed she would make it thus far.
According to Reno, she was one of only 16 women in her graduating class at Harvard University, and upon leaving she found it difficult to obtain a summer job in Miami because she was female.
At present, not only is Reno the first female U.S. Attorney General, she also is the longest serving Attorney General since the Civil War.
“Never give up if someone discriminates against you, because you can do anything if you put your mind to it,” Reno said.
The main focus of her speech, however, was to encourage students to get involved in public service.
Reno remarked that public service can be very rewarding and advised not to do it for the rewards, but instead because it is the right thing to do.
“Doing the right thing is the easy part. The hard part is deciding what that right thing is, which requires good hard fact-finding and objective thought,” Reno said.
At one point, Reno defended her decisions concerning Elian Gonzalez, stating that she feels she made the best decision possible given the circumstances.
Reno said she knew she could not be everything to everybody, and if she did she would only end up miserable.
Reno went on to recall the day when there were Elian-related protesters outside of her home, and she remarked that she was not angry but felt instead a certain joy for the protesters simply because America is one of the few countries where the public is able to exercise freedom of speech in such a way.
Reno also spoke about many of her policy concerns, primarily cost-effective, government-sponsored health care that can result in early prevention of illness in many cases.
Reno also mentioned that civil liberties must not be sacrificed for the sake of national security. Reno deems racial profiling as an injustice and feels the government should focus more on hard evidence.
Reno also spoke of her view on gay marriages, stating that the legal aspect, not referring to the religious aspect, of marriage should be granted because so many laws depend upon marriage, such as adoption. Reno feels that if gay people are allowed to teach young children or care for children in hospitals, they should be allowed to have the opportunity to adopt a child, provided the child is offered a stable, loving home.
Additionally, Reno advocated that the most effective way to reduce crime and violence is to incarcerate repeat offenders and find alternative forms of punishment for first-time or non-violent offenders.
Reno also said that she is very concerned with Florida governor Jeb Bush’s approach to education, stating that education is the backbone of this nation. Reno feels that the public education system is in a crisis, and current problems will not be solved by vouchers or by the FCAT.
One audience member asked, “At what point in your life did you decide you were a democrat?” Reno replied, “When I was able to understand that Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down and his many contributions to this nation.”
Reno says she feels she is able to do more public service now that she is out of office and admits that, since she has left office, a great weight has been lifted off her shoulders.
Reno added that she does not plan to seek any political position in the near future.
Caralyn Pearson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.