TOMMY BRUCE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Tony Bruce, the Vice President for University Communications at Cornell University. It's my pleasure, given the time constraints, to just cut to the chase and introduce Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York.
RUDY GIULIANI: [LAUGHS]
TOMMY BRUCE: Go ahead.
RUDY GIULIANI: Thank you very much.
TOMMY BRUCE: Thank you, sir.
RUDY GIULIANI: It's a great pleasure to be here. Somewhat circuitous route to get here. But we got here on time. I'm very happy that we're here. Took a side trip to Bedford, Massachusetts, which was very pretty. But I'm very happy to be here and looking forward to the convocation. Who would like to ask a question or two?
TOMMY BRUCE: Go ahead. This is The Sun.
SPEAKER 1: The student newspaper.
RUDY GIULIANI: How are you?
SPEAKER 1: Good. New York state has cut funding for Cornell by 30% over the last four years as part of a broader picture of declining state funding for higher education. What's your stance on state government funding higher education, particularly in the wake of such cuts?
RUDY GIULIANI: Well, I think we all have to be mindful of the fact that New York is no different than most other states. It's spending way too much money. It's got itself in tremendous debt. And this governor and the prior governor have had to make very difficult choices in cutting things he'd rather not cut. But when you're out of money, you've got to cut even necessities.
And unless we straighten that out, there isn't going to be much of a future for people who graduate from Cornell or anyplace else. If our economy remains debt-ridden the way it is now, it's not going to be the ascending economy that it's been in the past. So I think these difficult choices have to be made. I'd rather see education be funded at full levels. But given the choice, which is having to deal with the tremendous debt this state has, those sound like pretty responsible decisions to me.
TOMMY BRUCE: Please identify yourself.
ANDREW TUTINO: Yeah, Andrew Tutino from the Ithaca Journal. You're leading in a presidential poll that was released yesterday. Can you just talk a little bit about any possible presidential campaign?
RUDY GIULIANI: When you're not a candidate, you're always leading. [CHUCKLES]
I learned that many, many times running for mayor and other positions. So I don't pay much attention to that. It's a very good field of candidates. And I want to make sure the Republican candidate has the best possible candidate to run. And if at some point along the way I think it's me, then I'll decide to run. If I think it's someone else, I'll support them.
ANDREW TUTINO: A quick follow-up. On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you gauge whether you would run or not today?
RUDY GIULIANI: I don't gauge myself. I let other people do that. I let other people observe me. I just try to live my life and make decisions.
TOMMY BRUCE: Whoever's next.
RUDY GIULIANI: Yes, sir.
SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE] from WCHU Radio. What are some other factors that you would weigh in considering another run to the White House?
RUDY GIULIANI: Well, I mean, there are a lot. I mean, the main one is, I would like to see a Republican elected in 2012 for some of the reasons I talked about earlier. The debt that this country is accumulating is almost at the point where it could do permanent damage. It needs to be reversed. President Obama doesn't seem to be serious about that. A president is going to have to be serious about that if you want to protect the American economy.
So I would have to make a decision about whether I think there is a Republican who would be a really good opponent for President Obama that could win. If I thought there was, I'd support that person. If somehow I came to the conclusion it'd be me, then I'd probably do it. But that's not on my mind right now. What's on my mind is the commencement speech I'm about to give on leadership. Yes.
SPEAKER 3: Iris St. Meran, YNN. Rep. Pete King said you are close to running. But if you don't run, would you endorse him?
RUDY GIULIANI: Would I endorse Pete King? I'd endorse Pete King for anything. [CHUCKLES] Pete King is one my oldest friends. I know Pete from way back when I was in law school and we were associates together at a law firm known as Nixon Mudge. That's for President Nixon, before he ran for president of the United States.
So Pete and I are friends for many, many years. He is probably one of the most preeminent members of Congress, probably one of the biggest experts on national security that we have in the country, a man of intense integrity and a tremendous patriot. So I know what else I can say about him. I think he's just a remarkable public servant. We're very, very, very, very fortunate to have him. Yes.
SPEAKER 4: I'm Lindsey with WBNG, Channel 12. Why did you want to come here and speak to these graduates? And what today is going to be maybe your main overall message?
RUDY GIULIANI: Well, I think my main message is going to be that in the age that we live in, which is very, very fast moving-- much faster moving than any of us were prepared for-- information is available in seconds from all over the world-- it appears as if there's a crisis a day, an emergency a week-- some are, some aren't-- I think it's very important that young people starting out in life develop qualities of leadership-- the ability to make their own decisions, the ability to think for themselves, set goals for themselves, and get beyond some of the tremendous speed with which they are sometimes forced to make decisions. So I'll talk about leadership and the main principles of leadership and some of the things that I think are really important. Yes.
SUSAN KELLEY: Susan Kelley, Cornell Chronicle. I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about where you were and how you found out about the death of Osama bin Laden and some of your thoughts on that.
RUDY GIULIANI: I was at home watching television. I was watching Geraldo Rivera [LAUGHS] on Fox-- and I have to honestly tell you, not paying much attention. I was reading and watching at the same time, which is probably the best way to read.
And rather than hear it, I looked up from my Kindle. And I saw the ticket below. And it said the president was going to address the country at 10:30. And I was very concerned about, why would the president be addressing the country? And then like everyone else, I watched. And eventually, it was revealed that Osama bin Laden had been captured, had been killed.
And I felt a sense of real relief. I felt relief that it wasn't something worse, because the idea of the president addressing the country at 10:30 on a Sunday night-- who knows what that could be? It could be at any horrible thing happening. And second, I felt a sense of relief that he was finally brought to justice, which is something that I very much wanted to see happen for a very, very long time.
And I commend President Obama for the way he made that decision. I thought it was one of the most courageous decisions that any president's ever made. I told him that personally when I met with him. And even if I'm a Republican and he's a Democrat, you can admire a president that makes courageous decisions. And whatever the future for President Obama is, that'll be one of the things that'll give him a very, very strong place in history.
BOBBY BROOKS: Bobby Brooks, WETM News. How do you feel about same-sex marriage, especially here in New York?
RUDY GIULIANI: Well, I feel about same-sex marriage same all over New York or anyplace else. Doesn't change much. I was a proponent and am a proponent of civil unions, domestic partnerships. I may have signed the first law in the country, if not the second, that allowed it in New York City back in 1994 when it was still very, very controversial.
I think that marriage should remain between a man and a woman. I think it's a traditional value that can be preserved. And at the same time, all the rights and all the benefits and all the protections for gays and lesbians can be embraced within a civil union or a domestic partnership. I think that's the best answer to the conflict between the traditional view of marriage that many people hold sacred, and at the same time making sure everyone's rights are protected equally.
TOMMY BRUCE: Last question.
SPEAKER 5: Cornell stands to lose 11 language programs if cuts to the DOE-- $50 million for Title VI funding-- go through. What's your stance on Title VI funding for the Department of Education?
RUDY GIULIANI: Yup. I think it's a very difficult time. You could probably ask me that question about 10 different ways. The reality is, I think cuts are necessary because of the tremendous overspending that's being done by the federal government, by the state government. The level of our debt is the worst it's ever been in our history. That has implications for national security. It makes us a country that can't maybe even protect itself the way it should.
So if we want a future that's as bright as our past, we're going to have to get control of our spending. And that is going to require not spending money on things that we like-- not just things that we don't like.
We're going to have to rein in our appetites like you do when your family is in economic difficulties. You can't have steak. You have to have something else. It's good to have steak. But you can't if you don't have the money for it. Yes.
SPEAKER 6: Yeah. Thanks for letting me ask one more. Do you want to be president of the United States?
RUDY GIULIANI: Well, what do I want to be? Like a psychological question?
SPEAKER 6: Is that a position that you want?
RUDY GIULIANI: Of course. I wouldn't have fought very hard for it if I didn't want it. The question is, are you the right person to run for it?
SPEAKER 6: Are you?
RUDY GIULIANI: I don't know the answer to that yet. It really depends on the field. It depends on what their positions are, how it all shapes up. I found out last time, no matter how much you want to be president, there are a whole group of Republicans out there that get to decide that. You don't get to decide it.
SPEAKER 7: If I could do a quick follow-up on the bin Laden question, as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, what is it that you want Americans to keep in mind now that Osama bin Laden is gone?
RUDY GIULIANI: I want Americans to keep in mind that this is not yet a part of our history, like Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor is part of our history. It's over in the sense that the people who were our enemies are now our friends-- some of our closest friends. But September 11 is an ongoing part of our situation.
For all these people who graduate, they're going to be challenged by Islamic extremist terrorism for the foreseeable future. The people who killed us then, or the cause for which they killed us then, is just as alive, just as intense. And as a result of capturing and bringing Osama bin Laden to justice, we may be even in more danger in the near future.
Ultimately, I think it'll make us a lot safer. But I know the President realized even when making the decision, that the short-term consequences are possibly more danger for us-- although ultimately, I think this was a very, very big step that will make us safer. And it will eventually end this whole Islamic extremist terrorism situation. I think when you take out a leader of that magnitude, doesn't mean it ends the movement. But it's the beginning of the end. Thank you.
TOMMY BRUCE: Mr. Mayor, unfortunately, your enthusiastic crowd awaits you.
RUDY GIULIANI: Thank you very much.
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Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City, gives a press conference preceding his Convocation address at Cornell on May 28, 2011.