President Khalid Siraj called the meeting to order.
Edd Nolen introduced Mr. Robert Weiner to present a program about Public Affairs and Issue Strategies.
Our Guest Speaker, Mr. Robert Weiner, is now a national columnist with 90 "Op-Eds" in Top-100 papers since he left the White House as a public affairs spokesman in 2001, is an on-air analyst for several national radio shows, and currently covers the White House. He has been invited to, and attended all of, President Barack Obama's five White House news conferences to date, including last week's.
After earning a B.A. from Oberlin College in 1969, he became a Student Coordinator for Sen. Edward Kennedy's run for Senate in 1970, was then Assistant to the President of the National Young Democrats' organization, and held various positions with the Democratic National Committee, including being its first Youth Vote Director when 18-year-olds obtained the right to vote. He earned a M.A. in Recent American History at the University of Massachusetts in 1974, and continued his "first career" in varied roles in political and government jobs, beginning on Capitol Hill where he served as a "staffer" for several Congressmen and as Press Secretary/Media Coordinator/ Communications Director, for the Select Committee on Narcotics and the Committee on Government Operations in the U.S. House of Representatives. He became the Chief of Press Relations/Director of Public Affairs, White House Office of National Drug Policy, May 1995-August 2001.
He is married to Patricia Berg, Ph.D., the Director of a breast cancer research center at the George Washington University's Medical School. (Dr. Berg led a multi-university team which discovered a gene, "BP1," that is activated in 80 percent of breast cancer patients.) With 30 years of top-level government and political experience, he created and heads the Washington, DC based company, Robert Weiner Associates, which offers "full service public affairs and issue strategy support."
His opening remarks reflected a belief that anyone can get involved with influencing the actions of our government. He voiced his view that the Number One Issue facing our nation is Health Care Reform, and reflected the theme that the need was not just to get coverage for the uninsured, but to get the benefits that insured people now have to fight for because the insurance companies are so interested in profits. He urged strong support for the "Public Plan" contained in proposed legislation [which would create a government-financed alternative to compete with private insurers]. He then addressed what he views as the Second Most Important Issue: the Social Security Program, which he contended is absolutely solvent and - absent modifications - should remain so for 30 to 40 years; he then went on to assert that there is no good reform proposal under consideration. Within Social Security, is the Medicare program which - absent effective Health Care Reforms - is facing bankruptcy in about 11 years.
He then described a very vexing problem for which pending legislation appears to be proposing exactly the wrong solution: the problem entails the fact that while 68 percent of the people going into our prisons test positive for illegal drugs, only 2 - 3 per cent of the prison population receives treatment for drug abuse. Pending legislation proposes taking money away from drug treatment programs to support drug enforcement programs. He closed his presentation by fielding several questions from the audience. For more information, see: www.weinerpublic.com