(on getting outsiders’ speeches)
Published on Huffington Post, by Sean Carman, Sept.14, 2009.
NEW YORK, September 14, 2009 — Kanye West interrupted President Obama’s speech to the New York City investment banking community today, grabbing the microphone just as the President was launching into prepared remarks about the need for regulatory reform of America’s financial markets.
“I know we’re all gathered here today to discuss financial regulatory reform,” Mr. West said, after seizing the microphone from the President’s podium. “And I respect that” …
… Mr. West’s impromptu remarks received a mixed reception among the Wall Street executives gathered to hear Mr. Obama speak about the state of the economic recovery and the need for industry reform.
“He’s definitely got something,” said Timothy Geithner, the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, who was sitting in the front row of the auditorium to hear the President’s speech. “It’s just difficult to say what that something is.”
Others said they didn’t mind the interruption, as it gave them a chance to catch up on their e-mail, or check the latest market conditions on their Blackberries and Iphones. Others said they thought Mr. West had talent, and that he only needed to find his direction as an artist.
“Art is about communicating something universal to your audience,” Bank of America Chairman Ken Lewis said, emphasizing a point that many of the executives made. “You can’t just talk about yourself the whole time.”
Erin Callan, former Chief Financial Officer of Lehman Brothers, said she was familiar with Mr. West’s work, but was disappointed in his performance. “With Kanye, it’s usually about something larger,” she said. “But this seemed to be all about Kanye, and nothing more than that, really,” she said.
The President, for his part, seemed unperturbed, saying only that he thought it a little odd that a popular entertainer was interrupting him during an important public policy speech.
“It was unusual,” the President said, “but Kanye has promised me it won’t happen again”… (full text).