An inspiring GSA speaker roster

Al Kamen
Columnist April 10, 2012

One of the signposts of excess at the now-infamous 2010 General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas was an evening of entertainment by a “mentalist” who combined motivational talk with fortuneteller theatrics.

But the performance wasn’t a one-off — last year, attendees of another GSA-sponsored conference — also held in Sin City — were treated to another speaker, Rudy Ruettiger , a “motivational speaker” and the inspiration for the 1993 movie “Rudy.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

An attendee described Ruettiger’s address as comical and inspiring. “He was extremely funny and down-to-earth — reminding us that you don’t need to be the smartest person in the room to do great things, it just takes a lot of hard work and character,” the audience member wrote in an entry on the GSA’s Web site recapping the conference.

But Ruettiger seemed to have odd methods: He “spoke about gaining self-confidence through his impressive skills folding underwear,” the attendee wrote. Hmm . . .

And while Ruettiger was sharing underwear-folding tips with an audience that included federal workers, his dirty laundry was also attracting the attention of some other feds. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Ruettiger with running a stock scam Dec. 16, 2011, just two months after his performance at the GSA SmartPay Training Conference.


Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, on whose life the movie "Rudy" was based, at a Notre Dame pep rally on Friday, Oct. 14, 2005, in South Bend, Ind. (KOHL THRELKELD/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Ruettiger’s Web page describes him as “one of the most popular motivational speakers in the United States” and highlights his biography. Ruettiger improbably played for the Notre Dame football team and memorably sacked the opponents’ quarterback in the only play of his college career.

The annual gathering where he spoke focuses on the GSA’s SmartPay system, which provides charge cards to government agencies to use for purchasing, and attendees regularly include card-program managers from federal agencies in addition to GSA employees.

But let’s hope this year’s speaker fares better post-conference. According to the Web site of the 2012 conference (it’s in Nashville, not Vegas), the featured speaker is J.R. Martinez , a veteran of the Iraq war who recovered from devastating injuries and went on to a career as a speaker — and as a winner of “Dancing With the Stars.”

No doubling down

And speaking of the GSA’s Vegas adventures, the agency is issuing a memo to Sin City: We’re just not that into you — anymore.

The agency was slated to go back to the scene of the proverbial crime later this month. But alas for slots lovers, the GSA has canceled the “GreenUP 2012 Training Conference and Vendor Showcase,” set to take place in a Vegas hotel on April 25.

A spokesman says the event has been axed, noting that acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini promised in a letter to employees to review all of its upcoming conferences “that involve travel or substantial expenditures of public funds.”

The confab was supposed to bring contractors and GSA workers together to learn about eco-friendly products and services, such as plug-in cars and “green” paper products.

It was only a one-day event, without the lavish entertainment (clowns! a mentalist!) that the now-notorious 2010 conference had.

And it would have been a lot less splashy, since the venue — the relatively modest Hampton Inn Tropicana — can’t hold a candle to the luxe M Resort, where the 2010 shenanigans went down.

Hope the security deposit wasn’t too big.

e.e. reid?

A Loop fan calls to tell us that an item Tuesday about an excellent new book, “The Anthology of Really Important Modern Poetry,” which puts the truly odd things pols and celebrities say into verse — missed the best Harry Reid “poem.”

The Senate majority leader spoke like a poet during a gala March 21 (after the book went into print) at the Mellon Auditorium. The Bipartisan Policy Center put on the event to honor former Senate majority leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker, two of the center’s founders.

Dole, Baker, Reid and other former Senate leaders, save George Mitchell, and many current and former senators showed up. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was also there.

Reid rambled on for a while, according to a transcript, blaming the Senate’s dysfunction on the Founders.

Then he got to this excellent free verse:

Barbara Mikulski,

who,

by the way,

today we honored

her

on the Senate floor

by noting that she has served longer

in the United States Congress

than any person

in the history

of this country

as a woman.

The miracle didn’t come

So Rick Santorum has finally collided with reality. He’s “suspending” the race, meaning that he’s dropping his effort to be the Republican presidential nominee.

This is bad news — indeed a job-killing move — for reporters who had been writing, analyzing, assessing and tweeting about the contest and a wonderful cast of characters. Now it’s down to Romney and President Obama. Time to cash in that accumulated comp time.

It would be absolutely gauche to say we told you so, long ago. So we won’t. Except to say we told you so, three months ago, way back in mid-January.

“Republicans and reporters may be in denial,” we concluded then, “but the reality is, barring some miracle, it’s going to be the boring, awkward Mitt against the used Barack — no longer the champion of hopey-changey.”

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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