Now that he’s left the oval office — and our nation with $1.3 trillion in debt — I just read that our former president, George W. Bush is going to hit the speaking circuit, to, as he puts it “replenish the old coffers,” and “make a ridiculous amount of money.”
Dubya has signed up with an outfit called the Washington Speaker’s Bureau, and “unnamed sources” have said that he’ll be charging $150,000 a pop to step up to the podium. Oh yeah, and if there’s travel involved, those hiring the former prez will be expected to provide “first class airfare or private jet transportation for four.”
Schnikeys! That’s a lot of replenishing, and yes, I’d have to say, a “ridiculous” amount of money for a speech — especially in what we’re euphemistically calling “these challenging economic times” — which means, monetarily speaking, things suck big time. And who do we thank for such challenging times? And the aforesaid federal deficit?
$150 thou? For real? I myself have been on the speaking circuit for about 17 years now, and I can tell you, I don’t charge nearly that much for an appearance. And nobody ever flew me anywhere in a private jet. I did get to go up in an Army helicopter one time 27 years ago, back when I was a newspaper reporter. But I was with a bunch of other media types, and it was an Army press conference, and they made me tell the Army public relations guy how much I weighed for the official flight manifest. It was a month after I’d had my first child, so I thought about modesty vs. safety, and of course I lied, because at that time, I would rather have brought down a whole helicopter-load of reporters (especially the twig-like TV chicks) in a fiery inferno than tell anybody my true post-baby weight. It all worked out for the best. There was no crash, and nobody since then has ever had the nerve to ask how much I weigh. And they better not start, either.
But back to my own public speaking career. I’d thought things were rolling along pretty nicely. I wowed ’em in Hoover, Alabama in February, and later in March, I gave the keynote speech for the Georgia Women of Achievement ceremony down in Macon, Georgia where I met up with the radiant Neva Jane Fickling, Georgia’s only Miss America — circa 1953. Or was that 1955? And let’s not forget my show-stopping performance at the Savannah Book Festival, or Baxley, Georgia, where I absolutely killed. Seriously. They brought me cake. And I was invited to both the Methodist and the Baptist church. And we’re not even going to talk about my triumphant appearance in Charleston, South Carolina last summer before the Women’s Dermatological Society. (P.S. I am not making this stuff up. Check my Web site.)
Despite numerous accolades and glowing recommendations from various Friends of the Library organizations and Junior League volunteers, the sad fact is that I haven’t earned even a tiny fraction of the kind of change Dubya is looking at raking in for one measly stand-up appearance, over the entire length of my public speaking career.
The former president’s bio for the Washington Speaker’s Bureau points out that Mr. Bush is totally worth his $150,000 price tag, because he was, and I’m quoting here, “President for eight of the most consequential years in American history.” Consequential? Seriously? Whoa. If you want consequences, Dubya’s your man.
Me, I never invaded anything bigger than a teenage beer party. I’ve made some enemies, sure, but I never alienated entire continents. And sure, I’ll admit I’ve overdrawn the family checking account on occasion, but never by as much as, say, a billion, let alone a trillion. Suddenly, I find myself, um, speechless.