Is it too much to ask for Las Vegans to offer intelligent questions?

I wanted to scream out: “Ask the damn question.”

But restraint prevailed. Instead I left yet another Barrick Lecture Series event wondering whether people realize they sound like nitwits when they make speeches during the question-and-answer period.

Monday’s event featuring Democratic political consultant James Carville and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush followed the established pattern of giving mini-speeches instead of asking questions. One man provided his own answers.

Some questioners believe it’s their God-given right to ask multiple questions, even when there’s a dozen people lined up behind them. They own that microphone and to hell with everyone else. Men seem to be the worst offenders and the most oblivious to how foolish they appear.

Go to Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park in London if you want to sound off. Don’t force more than 1,200 people at UNLV’s Ham Hall to listen to your mindless blather.

It’s understandable a questioner would want to know whether Jeb Bush is considering a run for president — because both his father and older brother have been president — even though he has said again and again he is not running. But, Mister, that’s not a question that requires a big explanation to set up.

It’s obvious some questioners are just so thrilled to be addressing someone famous they want to draw out their joyful moment as long as possible.

Here’s a tip: A short edgy question on point is smarter than a long-winded tirade that goes nowhere. Sometimes the simplest questions get the most telling responses. Who would have thought Katie Couric’s “What do you read?” question would have been such a toughie for Sarah Palin?

I’m not alone here. A friend described the questions as lackluster and without substance, especially coming from what she presumed was a pretty intellectual audience. She wondered why no one asked about the political upheaval in Egypt, which would have been a natural and might have generated an interesting answer.

Understand, it’s wonderful the public gets a chance to question these speakers. It’s one of the endearing aspects of the Barrick lectures, which have always been one of the best freebies in Las Vegas.

Tickets are required, but they are free. (Little secret: Even if you go without a ticket, you’ll probably get in because so many people obtain tickets and then don’t attend. If it’s someone you really want to see, don’t stay away because you don’t have a ticket.)

I always wonder whether the guests, usually top-tier speakers, find those questions from Las Vegans particularly inane and self-centered or whether this is the kind of query they typically receive elsewhere on the lecture circuit.

Marjorie Barrick started the lecture series in 1980 with a
$1 million endowment in honor of her late husband, Ed. After her death in 2007, she left another $9 million endowment.

UNLV dropped the ball and didn’t have any lectures for two years but resumed them in 2009. Barrick’s estate attorney Jim Jimmerson said he is pleased with the way the university now is handling the endowment.

The speakers cost about $100,000, and UNLV officials figure the endowment provides enough for four lectures a year, although the reality has been two or three events in recent years.

The lectures are heavy on politics and journalism. Over the years they have brought in luminaries including Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jane Goodall, Ken Burns, Ben Bradlee and Bob Woodward, and Mary Matalin and husband Carville.

The next lecture on March 28 features New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman speaking on why we need a green revolution in America.

Perhaps with this helpful nudge, he will get a better quality of questions from the public. Let us hope.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at

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