You can take the reporter out of journalism, but you can’t take the reporter out of the boy, or something like that. This evening I donned my camera and notepad and trekked to the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT, to hear Texas Governor Rick Perry speak as part of his economic development swing through the Northeast. Tax- and regulation-plagued Connecticut businesses (especially the ancient gun trade) are prime targets for Perry’s appeal, so I wanted to hear him.
Perry visited Stamford with another agenda. He spoke as part of a series on “Civility in America,” with his topic being civility on the campaign trail. He reflected on his 2012 run for the Republican nomination for President, but also slipped in some tangy reminders of Texas’ success at attracting businesses and creating jobs.
“I thought I’d take a break from poaching all your jobs to talk about civility,” he said.
Perry pointed to the 24-hour news cycle, technology and the permanent campaign for higher office as factors behind the “coarsening” of public discourse, but said, “civility is a choice.” Asked about how a candidate can reinforce a message of civility in his campaign, Perry said the candidate’s conduct in public and private, with a “pleasant, decent and civil approach.” He pointed to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush as presidents with that approach. Democratic politicians that impress him include Gov. Jerry Brown of California, Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Connecticut’s own Gov. Dannel Malloy and California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.
Warming to his theme of states and economic development, Perry said that governors’ key role is to “create a climate” where businesses will want to invest. He favors competition among states for business, and would like to see more power devolving to states for decision making.
“I’m here to help stimulate a conversation about policies to make Connecticut and the United States more successfully economically,” said Perry.
He also touched on Texas education topics, including the $10,000 college degree and — bringing back my memories of junior high school — the year that seventh graders in the Lone Star State spending studying Texas history. I remember it well and it must have stayed with me, because here I am writing about Texas 40 years later.