And, to no one's surprise, Springer's opening keynote address here at Light Reading's Links 2004 Executive Summit this week was interesting, offering a glimpse of his political passion and some behind-the-scenes insight on his wildly successful TV program.
Indeed, Springer's talk wasn't the typical telecom keynote. It wasn't a rant on networking protocols or telecom regulation. And, to the surprise of some, it didn't dwell on transsexuals either.
His message, instead, was that the middle class is disappearing and the American dream is all but dead. Springer, who's considering a 2006 run for governor of Ohio, gave a running count of the most serious problems with America's political system along with some broad ideas on how to make sure all Americans have health care, a chance at a college education, and some hope of gainful employment that will both sustain a family and improve one's lot in life.
In short, Springer's message was this: In order to keep the economy healthy, more Americans need to find affordable health insurance and education, especially in the fields of math and science.
The topic is dear to Springer, whose family immigrated to America from England five years after his parents fled the Holocaust. Having been a presidential campaign worker, a mayor, a reporter, and a syndicated TV host, Springer's contention is that the American dream "is possible, but that doesn’t mean it will come true." His fear: "That ours will be the first generation that won't be able to assure our children that they'll have it better than we did."
There was a technology tie-in, but even that was kind of a stretch: "You can be developing the greatest technology in the world and if this education system isn't fixed and there are no jobs, you're not going to have any clients -- any customers," Springer says.
Springer's speech followed a Letterman-meets-Mad TV presentation hosted by Light Reading's president and CEO, Steve Saunders. The show included a parody corporate video, a parody quiz show, and a parody Top Ten List, all held on the very real set that David Letterman used during his past San Francisco-based broadcasts.
"May you never be on my show," Springer said, as he greeted the audience. "And for some of you, it may be too late."
Speaking of his show, here's what Springer shared about his program that attendees had always wanted to know, and finally got a chance to ask:
Highbrow it isn't, but Springer argues it's not harmful, either. Though he said he wasn't on stage to defend his "stupid" show (as he calls it), he did just that. When it was suggested that his show perpetuates the stereotypes that poor people aren't worth helping, Springer retorted: "That's like saying the evening news perpetuates the thought that the people in charge are all crazy."
"No one is going to watch our show and say, 'Damn, I want to be a transvestite.' "
Without a doubt, the same can be said for Light Reading. Ah, so there's the telecom tie-in!
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading