Obama adviser Robert Gibbs speaks to nearly 1,000 at SXU

Nearly 1,000 people listened to longtime adviser to President Barack Obama and former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’ inside perspective on the economic crisis, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the changing media landscape, and the 2012 presidential race at Saint Xavier University’s Voices and Visions Speaker Series on Oct. 20.

Gibbs has been an adviser and strategist to the President since the early days of Obama’s 2004 Senate race and most recently served as White House press secretary. He participated in an exclusive classroom question and answer session with SXU students before his lecture, in which he discussed the many challenges he and the rest of the White House staff members faced.

Gibbs predicted Obama will face a close race in 2012, but will win a second term. He did not name his pick for a Republican candidate, but said the president is in “a good position politically.” He recalled dealing with some of the most notable public relations challenges during his time at the White House, such as the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, unflattering comments made by a top general about Obama in a Rolling Stone magazine article, and the media’s focus on the politics of health care reform rather than what was in the legislation.

Gibbs also discussed America’s recent foreign policy successes, offering special insight on the Arab Spring on the very day former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was killed.

“The president deserves an enormous amount of credit for the way we’ve gone about executing the operations in Libya,” he said. “We proved that the United States does not have to put tens of thousands of boots on the ground, that we can build coalitions that spread … across a group of allies, yet still keep up the pressure on bad people like Gadhafi.”

“We were thrilled to see so many people in attendance at this year’s Voices and Visions Speaker Series,” said Robert Tenczar, Vice President of University Relations for Saint Xavier University. “We believe the wide range of interest in this program is due to the diverse political, ideological, historical, and gender-based experiences of our many speakers. This vital program is a valuable learning experience for students outside of the classroom and is in keeping with many of the Universities core values including respect, excellence, compassion, hospitality and learning for life.”

Gibbs joined Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign as communications director in 2004 and held the same title at the onset of the 2008 presidential campaign until becoming Senior Strategist for Communications and Message during the general election. During the four years of intense campaigning and close contact, Gibbs became an integral part of Obama’s team. According to The New York Times, Gibbs advised Obama on politics, strategy and messaging, and spent more time with him than any other adviser. Gibbs assumed the role of the Obama administration’s press secretary on January 20, 2009.

Gibbs also served as press secretary of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and previously specialized in Senate campaigns, having served as communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and for four individual Senate campaigns. Gibbs also was the press secretary of Representative Bob Etheridge.

The SXU Voices and Visions Speaker Series is sponsored by University Relations and in part by the Student Government Association. Past speakers include the Hon. Madeleine Albright, Gen. Colin Powell, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, and Cokie Roberts. For more information about the event, please contact the Office of Special Events at 773-298-3748 or specialevents@sxu.edu.