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Lineup impressive for first Business Forum

Michael Robinson
Vail Valley Partnership

Pundits: You either love em or hate em. And they’re everywhere these days ” in the morning papers and your e-mail in-box, on cable news shows, morning talk shows, and late-night monologues.

This election cycle, with more debates, conversations and fundraising events taking center stage in the months leading up to the presidential primary season, more than ever before. You can’t avoid them, even if you wanted to.

My question is why would anyone want to not listen to the political pundits? Especially anyone is business? Entertaining, insightful and even ” dare I say? ” informative, these unsung heroes of our public conversation are not appreciated enough, in my opinion. And the story behind the pundits is that they’re not nearly as partisan as most other sources of news. Throwing the entertainment factor in, perhaps they deserve a little more credit than they receive.

So why am I taking about presidential politics and the role of the pundit when the election of 2008 is still more than a year away? Because one of the best and brightest of the pundits will be speaking at the upcoming Vail Valley Business Forum on Aug. 23. Rich Galen, of http://www.mullings.com fame and often seen on Fox News Channel and other cable news shows including “Larry King Live,” will be a featured speaker.

Why should this matter to you? Although our day-to-day activities, including business, do at times take place on a mountain perch, our ideals and business actions cannot exist in a Vail Valley bubble. The forum will provide a platform for Vail Valley businesses to question and converse with industry experts about the global issues impacting us at the local level. Galen is just one of the speakers who will be part of the event, all of whom will shed light on national and international business affairs that influence what we do here.

Galen has “inside the beltway” experience to speak to politics firsthand, serving as press secretary to Dan Quayle when the former vice president was in Congress. He also worked for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Galen was one of a select number of Americans who were sent to Eastern Europe as communism collapsed and helped build a democratic political infrastructure in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and the former Czechoslovakia.

Galen is also an accomplished business leader. In 1992, he helped create the Emerging Markets Group for Electronic Data Systems and helped implement the company’s expansion into Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Israel and Egypt. He managed a staff that spanned three continents, four time zones, and spoke four languages. In 2003-04, Galen was asked to perform a tour of duty in Iraq, and through his reporting, he provided many Americans their first glimpse at a different view of the situation on the ground there.

Gaining an understanding of his background, experience and his service to issues facing our community, it is easy to understand why someone once described him as “what you get when you cross a political hack with a philosopher.”

And so when politicos do their thing, it is not a thin, one-dimensional view that is offered but rather a compilation of experiences, dedication and purpose. The fiercely dedicated pundits such as Mary Matalin and James Carville retire to their corners with total respect for the other side. In others words, they regroup, and in doing so, reignite thought or opinion in our own approach to a particular candidate or issue before heading back into the ring for another round.

We must be ready for an onslaught of pundits offering ideas and arguments on politicians and platforms before November 2008 rolls around, but I challenge you to give them their due and open up your minds and philosophies to the debate ” it’s healthy, progressive, and downright American.

If you’re interested in hearing first hand from one of the county’s best, Rich Galen, be sure to attend the Vail Valley Business Forum at the Vail Marriott on Aug. 23. You’ll get the chance to hear about all the candidates, from both parties, without the spin and hype. It will be entertainment and information at its finest.


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