“It’s not some kind of detailed advice, but I think America needs its own perestroika,” Gorbachev said through an interpreter April 28, 2012, at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.
The comment referenced an exchange that took place about four years ago in the Midwestern United States. Gorbachev said an audience member pressed him to give advice for the United States at the start of the Great Recession in 2008, which caught him off guard.
“That was something new,” Gorbachev said. “During my life in politics, it’s always the Americans who lecture others.”
Gorbachev said his comment sparked a standing ovation from 12,000 audience members, which confirmed his assessment of the political mood. “Soon afterward, President Obama won the election,” Gorbachev said. “I think serious changes are happening here.”
Thunderbird Interim President Barbara Barrett used her clout as a former Ronald Reagan appointee to help bring Gorbachev to Arizona. Barrett also served as U.S. ambassador to Finland during the George W. Bush administration.
Other event sponsors included the O’Connor House, Arizona State University, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Eight, Arizona PBS. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and ASU President Emeritus Lattie Coor represented their organizations on stage with Barrett and Gorbachev.