More than 530 people came to hear former presidential candidate Steve Forbes speak at a breakfast at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort celebrating the inauguration of Westmont’s eighth president, Gayle Beebe. Forbes spoke about “America’s Economy and the Global Imperative,” declaring that the world is in the midst of a Golden Age. The breakfast kicked off a day of events.
“Never before in human history have so many advanced financially,” Forbes says. “Despite the recent hits on the stock market, it’s still 60 percent higher than it was five years ago.”
Forbes says there will be ups and downs in the global economy and cautions against blaming other countries during an economic downfall.
“The standard of living is going up, but anxiety is out there,” he says. “Agriculture was by far the largest employer in the U.S., now less than 4 percent of the population earns a living in the food industry. Change will happen. Everyone is trying to improve their lot in life.”
Forbes stressed the importance of the type of education that Westmont provides. Commerce works best when there’s a moral foundation, he said.
“The trends of today do not mean the trends of tomorrow,” he said. “What are important are the core values that Westmont has and that you all understand. We need to maintain our core values. Commerce comes to a halt without a moral foundation.”
Half of Westmont’s students study abroad during their undergraduate college education. Forbes suggested that even more students should travel and experience other cultures. He said he would also like to see the U.S. do more to keep foreign students in our country.
“Students come in and study, get a degree and leave,” he said. “I think a green card should be embossed with their diploma.”
Forbes took part in a panel discussion that included Robert Emmons, former CEO of Smart and Final, Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International and a Westmont alumnus, and Andrew Chou, president of the Santa Barbara region of Northern Trust Bank.
Emmons warned against protectionism and said the U.S. is pulling away from free trade. “Globalization is here, fueled by the Internet, and it has meant a great deal for job creation around the world,” he said.
Hirsch said the U.S. needs to lead change for the global economy and suggested that the last two presidents have instead reacted to change.
Chou stressed the importance of education in a global economy. “We’re able to benefit from exporting our expertise in education,” he said. “Education is paramount. We’re not only exporting goods, but people.”
Following the breakfast, the festivities continued on campus with an installation ceremony that featured more speeches from Beebe and Forbes as well as hymns, congregational singing and a cello solo by sophomore Felix Huang.
Beebe received a medal during the investiture from Steve Stong, chairman of the board of trustees, and former presidents David Winter and Stan Gaede. He then talked about “Westmont’s Response to the Global Imperative,” recalling his days in college that transformed him into a voracious reader. He came to Westmont for a semester as part of a consortium exchange to study with Robert Gundry, Westmont professor emeritus, who participated in the service. Beebe stressed the importance of having students become global citizens, reiterating a point that Forbes had made at the breakfast. Beebe said that he hopes to increase the number of students studying abroad to 90 percent.
Family and friends talked about their relationship with Beebe at a lunch on Russell Carr Field. Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett, Matt Blickendorf and Gayle’s wife, Pam, provided humorous and sentimental stories revealing the depth of Beebe’s character.
Three afternoon panel discussions provided insight into the global imperative from the perspective of differing disciplines, including the natural and behavioral sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
The day concluded with a private dinner attended by more than 250 people at Four Seasons The Biltmore Santa Barbara that featured a speech by USC President Steve Sample.