“I loved how personable he was,” William Smith sophomore Kate Cottrell is quoted as saying about Richard Rosenbaum ’52, in a Messenger Post article following his President’s Forum lecture on campus last Thursday. The article says Rosenbaum , “pared down a lifetime of experience into a few key tenets” while he was here. Among them, it quotes him as saying, “You have to laugh at yourself.”
A former GOP chairman for New York State and a candidate for Governor of New York State in 1994, Rosenbaum served as Chairman of the New York State Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board by appointment of Gov. George Pataki. He was also Chairman of the New York Republican State Committee from 1973 to 1977 and the New York representative on the Republican National Committee in Washington D.C. for more than 20 years.
He was one of the youngest Justices to be elected to the New York State Supreme Court for a full 14 year term with bipartisan support. Rosenbaum has been a member of the New York State Bar for more than half a century and is currently Senior Counsel at Nixon Peabody LLP, where he was formerly a partner. His President’s Forum talk coincided with the release of his book, “No Room for Democracy: The Triumph of Ego Over Common Sense,” a memoir of his years in politics.”
The entire article appears below.
Messenger Post Newspapers
“Advice and politics you can laugh at”
Margaret Poe • staff writer Associated Press • September 26, 2008
Geneva, N.Y. –
Speaking before more than 100 college students on Thursday, Richard Rosenbaum cheerily recounted the time he introduced presidential candidate “Gerald R. Fraud” to a roomful of people, a slip of the tongue that left him “marginally suicidal,” Rosenbaum joked.
Within seconds the garrulous 77-year-old had tumbled into the next story of his decades in law and politics, a tenure that included a stint as state Republican chair and 14 years on the state Supreme Court.
The Penfield resident counts John McCain and Nelson Rockefeller among his old friends. He has been deep in the trenches, experiencing first-hand the evolution of the Republican party over the last half century. And he has voted at GOP national conventions for more than two decades.
On Thursday, Rosenbaum pared down a lifetime of experience into a few key tenets. Among them was the wisdom that has kept him going, ever since those days jetting about the country in Air Force One, ushering President Ford onto a stage.
“You have to laugh at yourself,” he said.
That maxim was readily apparent at the President’s Forum lecture featuring Rosenbaum, a 1952 Hobart graduate who is the father of a 1986 Hobart graduate. His talk coincided with the release of Rosenbaum’s book, “No Room for Democracy: The Triumph of Ego Over Common Sense,” a memoir of his years in politics. Rosenbaum is senior counsel at the Rochester law firm Nixon Peabody LLP.
Rosenbaum wove his politics in and among his stories, making clear his loyalty to the GOP. But he stressed, too, his conviction in his beliefs. When an adviser told him to change his pro-choice and pro gun-control stances ahead of his bid for governor in 1994, he refused.
“If I change those two positions, it won’t be me,” he said. That may have cost him the election, but he seemed unapologetic. “I think it’s just wrong.”
For some students, the lecture was a fresh voice on what they dubbed a liberal – or apathetic – campus.
“I loved how personable he was,” said William Smith sophomore Kate Cottrell. “You knew he was going to give an honest answer.”
Rosenbaum’s free-wheeling style took him from criticism of the Electoral College (which he called a “waste of time”) to a lament of his party’s shift to the far right. In response to student questions, he touched on the “dire” economic situation and Israel’s role in the Middle East. But he seemed to really light up when a student asked if he had any advice for aspiring politicians.
“I always have advice,” Rosenbaum said.
Mark Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, quickly jumped in: “Do you have any good advice?”
Once the laughter subsided, the lawyer-turned-Republican bigwig looked the student right in the eyes.
“Don’t be so proud you can’t start at the very bottom,” he said. “And then work like the devil.”
Contact Margaret Poe at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 322, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.