H. Ross Perot said he’s been asked why immigrants settled in his home state of Texas.
“Well, they came in the summer; mules died in the heat,” Perot said. “They had no choice.”
The former presidential candidate’s quip was one of many that brought roars of laughter from the audience Wednesday at the Eisenhower Auditorium in Lewis and Clark Center at Fort Leavenworth. The Texas billionaire’s speech was part of the Colin Powell Lecture Series.
And Perot participated in the grand opening ceremony for the Col. Arthur D. Simons Center for the Study of Interagency Cooperation. In November, Perot pledged $6.1 million to Fort Leavenworth. In addition to funding the Simons Center, Perot’s donation will endow the Gen. Hugh Shelton Chair in Ethics. Perot offered to donate to the fort when he first was informed that he had been selected to receive this year’s Distinguished Leadership Award from the Command and General Staff College Foundation.
According to the center’s chief operating officer, retired Maj. Gen. Raymond D. Barrett Jr., the center will provide outreach to other areas of the U.S. government, such as the FBI, CIA and Department of Agriculture.
“It will enhance the college experience,” Barrett said.
Perot elected to name the center after Simons, who was a good friend of his. Simons led the 1970 Son Tay Raid to free prisoners of war in Vietnam. In retirement, Simons led a 1979 mission to rescue two of Perot’s employees from a prison in Iran.
Perot officially received the Distinguished Leadership Award on Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo. The award went to retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan in 2009 and former Secretary of State and former Gen. Colin L. Powell in 2008. Perot is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate.
During Wednesday’s speech, Perot lauded military personnel for their service to the country.
“As I go across the country, it’s hard to find tough people,” Perot said. “So it’s an honor to be here with you.”
During a question-and-answer session, a student asked Perot about the future of a third party in the U.S. political landscape.
“I had a little experience with that,” Perot said, again triggering laughter from the audience.
He said special interest groups control Republicans and Democrats and noted he used his own money entirely to fund his presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996.
“The two parties have absolutely locked up control of elections,” he said.