Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will address a capacity crowd at Arlington Theatre tonight, while groups of demonstrators plan to rally outside the theater in protest.
In the Arts & Lectures presentation of “Leadership: Taking Charge,” the retired four-star general will discuss his military and administrative experiences to a sold-out audience of 2,000 people at 8 p.m., Arts & Lectures Senior Writer-Publicist George Yatchisin said.
UCSB alumnus Mike Glick said he and other protesters will amass outside the theater around 7 p.m. to speak out against Powell’s activities while in office. Besides Glick’s group, Yatchisin said he has received several e-mails from locals saying they, too, plan to protest.
In his speech, Yatchisin said, Powell will share with the audience his vast breadth of experience, as well as the numerous insights that come with it.
“He’ll be talking about the different types of leadership he has done throughout his career as a four-star general and secretary of state, and will talk about things that he’s seen in the world and bring that to the people who aren’t four-star generals or secretary of states,” Yatchisin said.
Powell served in the U.S. Army for 35 years, ultimately becoming a four-star general and serving as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, overseeing military operations such as Operation Desert Storm.
Films & Lectures Manager Roman Baratiak said he is pleased to see Powell included in this year’s list of Arts & Lectures presentations.
“Arts & Lectures’ program tries to present a large and diverse schedule of public speakers, and Colin Powell is one person folks were interested in hearing,” Baratiak said. “We were fortunate enough for him to be on the schedule.”
However, Glick said he will protest the event because he believes Powell lied to the United Nations when the former secretary of state declared on Feb. 5, 2003 that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction – the main justification for the U.S. entering into the Iraq War.
“For him to come into town and give a lecture about leadership is an ultimate insult to our intelligence – that’s why we’re protesting,” Glick said. “He’s supposed to be a soldier himself, and he sold out our own troops and sent them needlessly into combat. That’s horrendous and egregious.”
Glick said he believed Powell was intentionally deceitful.
“He had expressed to [President George W.] Bush that the intelligence wasn’t credible and he didn’t believe the stuff that he presented to the U.N. was true,” Glick said. “In my opinion, he was just lying about it to the U.N. to try and sell the war,” Glick said.
UCSB College Republicans Executive Director John Wagner said he disagrees with the protesters. He said he believes Powell was an effective and non-partisan leader who decided to go to war based on consistent intelligence from other nations.
“I don’t think he lied,” Wagner said. “I think he went off intelligence – the same intelligence as Britain, France and Russia. Do you consider getting rid of Saddam’s oppression and tyranny over his people a bad thing? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. War is not a pretty thing. People die.”
Yatchisin said he understands why some people would protest Powell’s presentation.
“I’m pretty sure it goes back to the talk to the U.N. that helped precipitate the Iraq War, in which many people [were] left to believe he wasn’t telling the truth about the WMDs that turned out not to exist,” Yatchisin said. “It’s just people using their First Amendment right.”
Local radio station KCLU 88.3 FM and the Metropolitan Theatres Corporation are also cosponsoring the event. Tickets for the mezzanine seats were sold to the public for $35 each, while orchestra seat tickets were priced at $50 each. The Arlington Theatre is located in downtown Santa Barbara at 1317 State Street.