Former California Governor Pete Wilson Visited SDSU

Pete Wilson (right) with Joe Shapiro, dean of SDSU’s College of Extended Studies

Pete Wilson (right) with Joe Shapiro, dean of SDSU’s College of Extended Studies

Pete Wilson, the 36th governor of California from 1991-1999, recently spoke to a full house of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members through SDSU’s College of Extended Studies regarding his experiences in a long and storied political career stretching from San Diego to Washington, D.C.

Wilson noted that when he first became governor, the state faced a dire budget forecast. One of his advisers “had all the cheer and warmth of an open grave” when he came to a budget meeting on a particular day.

“The morning after winning the election, I was still glowing and blissful. Had I known what it was going to be like preparing a budget, I would have demanded a recount,” Wilson said while laughing to the audience in the Allan Bailey Library of the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.

A fruitful career

During his near two-hour appearance that was primarily a question-and-answer session, Wilson talked about topics from the budget to crime to education to immigration to health care and other matters.

Wilson has plenty of background to lean on. He served as a California legislator, San Diego mayor and U.S. senator before replacing fellow Republican George Deukmejian as California governor.

Wilson noted that both houses of the state legislature had Democratic majorities when he became governor. Thus, he said, it became important to discover allies on the other side of the aisle.

A day in the life

Throughout his presentation, Wilson spoke of situations that a governor faces on a daily basis. One audience member asked him whether he preferred a legislative role or a post such as governor or mayor.

“The difference between an executive and legislative role is enormous,” Wilson answered. “The beauty of being an executive is that you have far more power to execute your good and bad ideas.”

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at SDSU recently offered a class titled, “What if YOU were the Governor of California?” It was taught by Dixon Arnett, who served as Wilson’s legislative director in Washington, D.C., and directed two state departments under Wilson.

About the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

SDSU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers a vibrant learning community and state-of-the-art classrooms, where students learn from outstanding faculty from SDSU and other universities, as well as from award-winning authors and artists.

There are no tests, grades or exams — just a chance to dive into learning and recapture the thrill of intellectual growth and the camaraderie created by exciting discussions with curious fellow learners.

or more Osher program information, call (619) 594-2863 or visit the SDSU Osher Lifelong Learning Institute program’s website.

Osher is a SDSU Research Foundation program.