After Bill Bradley and his New York Knicks teammates lost two straight games to the Boston Celtics in the early 1970s, he received an urgent and threatening letter from a fan.
"Bradley, if you lose one more game to the Boston Celtics, I'm going to come to your house and kill your dog," the letter stated. Bradley responded the only way he could: "By the way, I don't own a dog."
Days later, a box arrived on his front step, containing a puppy and a note: "Bradley, don't go and get too attached to this dog, because you know I'm going to kill it if you lose again."
Throughout his life, Bradley, who at 60 has been a Princeton University graduate, a Rhodes scholar, an Olympic and professional basketball player, and a former U.S. senator and presidential hopeful, has held true to a similar life-long motto: "Don't get too attached to your job."
At his lecture Wednesday, the finale of the Distinguished Speakers Series, he told a crowd of approximately 1,500 in the Center for the Arts that both their future and the future of the country depend on not only adapting to change, but determining what values will be emphasized as globalization and technology fashion an increasingly unpredictable world.
Before introducing Bradley, UB President William R. Greiner announced that UB Alumnus Don Davis, founder of Don Davis Auto World and long-time benefactor to the university, had passed away Tuesday night, and a moment of silence was held.
Davis established the Don Davis Auto World Endowment Lectureship Fund for UB's Distinguished Speaker Series in 1988 with his wife, the late Esther E. Davis, as well as providing over $1 million in endowments to the university's mini-medical school and WBFO public radio station.
Bradley said the world today is much more different than it was 10 years ago: One billion more people are living in a global market than a decade ago, more people living outside their birth country than ever before, and advances in computer technology have been so exponential that if the automotive industry had kept pace with it, one could drive from Buffalo to Los Angeles on four milliliters of gasoline.
Globalization and technological change can inspire a young Indian boy to reach for the heights of success exemplified by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Bradley said, but it can also create the terrorist cells that meticulously planned and executed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"It is a different phenomenon than we have ever faced before," said Bradley.
Bradley said securing the country from future threats will require "Allies, allies, allies. ... We cannot expect to handle this on our own. It requires intelligence from many different sources," as well as "a higher degree of security in our lives."
According to Bradley, countries require strong leadership if they are to exist and prosper during trying times.
"How do we lead? The way we lead is the way we've lead at our best - like Thomas Jefferson said, 'The best way to lead is to lead by your example.' That means a pluralistic democracy, with a vibrant economy raising more people to a higher economic ground," said Bradley.
Bradley also said that the United States needs a "collective dialogue on what we consider 'good times.'"
While 44 million people live without healthcare in the country, enough to populate 11 middle states, and 13 million children live in poverty, more than the combined size of the cities of New York and Los Angeles, Bradley said the needs of the "spread out and invisible" are being overlooked for large tax cuts like those proposed by President George W. Bush.
"My hope is, there will be a time when we get this economy moving again that we will include their quality of life in our definition (of good times)," said Bradley.
To combat the trend in voter apathy seen in the 2000 elections, in which Bradley ran against then-Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic candidacy and at which less than 50 percent of registered voters went to the polls, Bradley said, "Our democracy needs to be more responsive" to a changing populace.
"We are either all in this together, or each of us is diminished," he said.
Bradley cited statistics from the 2000 census, which showed there are more Muslims currently living in the United States than Presbyterians, and noted that more than one-third of the Internet startup companies founded during the Silicon Valley boom were headed by people of Asian descent.
He then gave what was the best example of increasing diversity he could find:
"I recently read a story in a newspaper about a restaurant in Houston, Texas, owned by Korean-Americans who employed Mexican-American laborers to prepare Chinese-style food for a predominantly black clientele."
During the question-and-answer period, one audience member asked what Bradley believed was the greatest threat to the nation's security and economic prosperity.
"So you're asking, what problems do I have with the Bush administration?" he replied, garnering laughs from the audience.
Bradley said the Bush administration is similar to that of Ronald Reagan's, with discrete but important changes being made to national security, income tax and environmental policies.
"George Bush is a revolutionary president who talks softly," said Bradley.
When asked what UB students and faculty could do to oppose Gov. George E. Pataki's proposed cuts to the SUNY budget, Bradley said advocates should focus on having the federal government return gains from the proposed tax relief package to state budgets.
Near the end of his speech, Bradley recognized the handful of UB students in attendance who worked for his 2000 presidential campaign, some of whom traveled to New Hampshire prior to the Democratic primary there.
Jim Twombly, a political science lecturer who worked locally for Bradley's campaign, said he remembered Bradley being slightly worn, from both travel and heart murmur concerns, when he last visited Buffalo early in his candidacy.
"Now, he's a very relaxed, very personable, very pleasant individual, like he usually is," said Twombly.