Bill Clinton makes quiet stop in Rancho Mirage

President Bill Clinton made a quick trip to the Coachella Valley this week, speaking to a crowd of executives who had gathered at Porcupine Creek.

Wednesday’s speech was part of a three-day leadership summit done in conjunction with Oracle Corp.

The software company’s co-founder, Larry Ellison, purchased Porcupine Creek in 2011 for $42.9 million. The 249-acre Rancho Mirage estate has a 18,430-square-foot home and its own golf course.

An Oracle representative declined to provide details of Clinton’s speech.

But according to one attendee’s blog, the wide-ranging speech included everything from the 2012 presidential election and advances in health technology.

Clinton is no stranger to the Coachella Valley, thanks to the Clinton Foundation’s partnership with the Humana Challenge.

According to news reports, he charges as much as $500,000 for a speaking engagement.

After the trip, Clinton headed to Texas to help celebrate the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

Three Wounded Warriors in Humana Challenge amateur field

Former President Bill Clinton talks with wounded warrior double amputee golfer Saul Martinez on the driving range at PGA West's Palmer and Nicklaus Private Courses on Thursday, January 17, 2013 during the first day of the Humana Challenge golf tournament. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

Three wounded warriors are playing in the amateur field of this week’s PGA Tour Humana Challenge golf tournament in La Quinta. Saul Martinez, Dave Romanowsky, and Matt Anderson, who are representing the Troops First Foundation, will be on the course for their third and final round in the Humana Challenge’s amateur competition.

Wounded warrior double amputee Saul Martinez works out on the driving range Thursday at PGA West.

Sgt. Saul Martinez, U.S. Army (Ret), joined the Army infantry in 2006 and was deployed to Iraq the next year as part of the surge.  He quickly became a Sergeant assigned to the Brigade Commander’s security detail.  On May 8, 2007, his vehicle was hit by a large IED, instantly killing his best friends and severely injuring Martinez.

He became a bilateral amputee who also had a traumatic brain injury. He medically retired in 2010 after three more years of active duty including regular soldier training and serving as a squad leader in a Warrior Transition Unit. He also returned to Iraq in 2011 as part of Operation Proper Exit.

During his recovery he discovered that golf was both therapeutic and relaxing.  He and his family live in Montana, where he tries to get out on the course as much as possible.

Before the opening round on Thursday, Martinez was greeted by former President Bill Clinton on the driving range at PGA West.

A 15-handicap, Martinez posted 7-under in the opening round at Nicklaus Private Course with professionals Daniel Summerhays and Roberto Castro, who is a tournament co-leader at -14 after the second round. On Friday Martinez played with Michael Bradley and Jason Bohn and shot 4-under. He is at 11-under for the tournament.

Martinez tees off Saturday at 8:50 a.m. on the 1st tee at La Quinta Country Club. He will play with professional golfers Robert Streb and Steve LeBrun.

Technical Sgt. Dave Romanowsky, U.S. Air Force (Ret), served in the Air Force for 17.5 years where he served as an intelligence operative for 12 years before switching to Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). Before Sept. 11, 2001, Romanowky served a 12-month deployment to Kosovo. Following 9/11 he did two one-year tours in Iraq where he conducted over 1200 ground combat missions.

He worked one year as a demolition specialist for Army Special Operations and as he described “in a capacity to go and catch the bomb makers that were killing or wounding so many of my fellow troops.”

He is a recipient of the Bronze Star for Valor, Purple Heart, Army and Air Force Commendation Medals, and several Combat action medals.

Romanowsky turned to golf as a rehabilitative tool after he was wounded in action with several fractured vertebra. “I am so thankful to just be walking,” he said about his injuries which include other injuries to legs, head, and torso area with severe damage to the lung area and hearing loss in left ear. He spent roughly 4 months in the hospital and roughly 18 months doing rehabilitation in Colorado. He and his family recently moved to Dallas.

“I found that golf is not only extremely fun but acts as a great way to spend time with wife and my two children. I did play prior to being injured but now being retired from the service I’ve thrown myself into it here in Texas,” Romanowsky said.

“I look forward to the great opportunity to play in the Humana and cannot even put into words how thankful I am for the opportunity. Having been nearly killed in combat, I truly embrace everyday of life and this event is almost unbelievable to a be a part of.”

Romanowsky has been Tweeting about his trip to the Humana Challenge via his handle, @Romo9999.

In Thursday’s first round, Romanowsky played with pros Brad Fritsch and Aaron Watkins at La Quinta Country Club where he shot 3-under. Friday the airman, who is listed as an 8-handicap, posted 9-under at the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West with Jason Kokrak and Greg Owen. He is 12-under so far in the tournament.

He tees off Saturday at 8:40 a.m. on the 10th tee of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West. He will play with professional golfers D.A. Points and Tommy Gainey. Comedian Ron White is also in his foursome.

Wounded warrior Matt Anderson shakes hands with PGA Tour player William McGirt after their foursome finished up on the18th hole at Palmer Private Course on Thursday, January 17, 2013 at the Humana Challenge. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

After the September 11th attacks, Capt. Matt Anderson, U.S. Army, left college and join the military.  He enlisted as an 11B Infantryman and became a Scout/Sniper with the 25th Infantry Division shortly before deploying for a 15 month deployment to Iraq. He promoted from a Private First Class to Staff Sergeant in four years. He was selected to go to Officer Candidacy School. After finishing at #4 in his class, he voluntarily served as an assistant S-3 in planning and operations for 1-66 Armor, part of 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. Later he was given command of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company. 1-66 Armor was the first Heavy Brigade Combat Team to occupy Afghanistan.  Their area of operation in the Arghandab River Valley was heavily contested and land mines were a constant threat. The Arghandab River Valley was regarded as the worst area in Afghanistan in 2010. Within the first two-and-a-half weeks, his platoon suffered 14 casualties, diminishing their manpower by half.

His platoon helped with the identification and reduction of multiple IEDs and the improvement of the infrastructure and Afghan/American sentiment within three local towns.  One night, they were tasked to secure the Arghandab River from an abandoned town that was rumored to be extensively mined by the Taliban. At 4:16 a.m. then-First Lt. Anderson stepped on the first land mine inside the compound.  The explosion shattered his heel into 13 pieces and his ankle into three pieces. He also suffered a fractured tibia, fibula, cubiod and navicular bones with extensive vascular and neurologic damage.

A few months after his injury, he learned that there was 45-pounds of ammonium nitrate explosive attached to the land mine that did not detonate, had it gone off he would not have survived the blast. Two other soldiers were injured by land mines within the same compound.

Anderson has had 24 procedures and operations on his right leg.  His leg was salvaged and with the help of a brace, he remains an active duty Army officer and was promoted to Captain.

He said he loves to compete as an athlete and perform the job that he loves. He says that his men are his inspiration to always strive to become a better leader, to work harder, and not let pain or physical limitations stop him from anything.

Anderson is a recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.

He opened the tournament 6-under on Thursday at the Palmer Private Course of PGA West with tour pros Brian Harman and William McGirt. On Friday he played at La Quinta Country Club and played 2-under for the round with pros Ryo Ishikawa and Lucas Glover. He is listed as an 8-handicap and is currently 8-under for the tournament.

Anderson tees off Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the 1st tee of the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West. He will play with professional golfers Ben Kohles and Alistair Presnell. Singer Dave Brock is also in his foursome.

*Tournament officials provided biographical data for each wounded warrior.

Bill Clinton blends in, belongs in the desert

Former President Bill Clinton poses with volunteers on the first tee of the Humana Challenge on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. Gary Player is at the far left. (Denise Goolsby, The Desert Sun)

Former President Bill Clinton poses with volunteers on the first tee Thursday. Gary Player is at the far left. (Denise Goolsby, The Desert Sun)

Last year, as a spectator, I got to shake Bill Clinton’s hand – the first presidential handshake of my life – on a blustery day at the Humana Challenge. He was coming off the driving range and I jockeyed into what I thought would be a good position to see the 42nd president up close.

He smiled as he walked by and accepted my outstretched hand as I thanked him for his service to the country. He said thank you, and moved down the line to greet the next well-wisher. I remember his piercing blue eyes and warm, soft hand.

I was awestruck for awhile.

Everyone else in the crowd seemed equally starstruck by the very presence of Clinton.

Fast forward to 2013.

I tagged along — as a working journalist this time — as Clinton made his appearance at the first tee ceremony on the Palmer Private course at PGA West, then headed to the driving range to shake hands and pose for pictures with pro golfers, caddies, and volunteers.

The crowd gathered near the driving range snapped photos, shot video, and watched as he leisurely made his way down the line of golfers smacking monster tee-shots deep into range.

When Clinton appeared at the Humana Challenge in 2012 – the first year of tournament’s partnership with the Clinton foundation – his presence was a novelty. A former leader of the free world was throwing his name and the weight of his global organization behind the tournament that Bob Hope built.

This year, the mood was more relaxed, as Clinton – who is now becoming a very familiar face at events across the valley – strolled through Hope Square waving and greeting volunteers.

Bill blends in well with desert. He’s laid back, warm, and has a bright, sunny personality. It’s like he’s always been here.

Health Matters 2013: Coachella Valley as ‘ground zero’ for healthy changes


The Coachella Valley is “ground zero” for wellness — as proven by an unprecedented partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Desert Healthcare District Vice President Kay Hazen said Tuesday.

Hazen introduced a panel on “Healthy Communities” at the second-annual “Health Matters: Activating Wellness in Every Generation” conference.

President Bill Clinton is hosting the conference at the La Quinta Resort and Club.

Since the conference last year, the district has partnered with Clinton’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation to fund a full-time healthy schools relationship manager.

Every school in the valley has agreed to create a wellness council, too, and programming will expand to every school over the next four years, Hazen said.

“This is the first time that this opportunity for the Alliance — to reach every school within a confined geographical region — has been to put to the test,” Hazen said.

Hazen thanked the Clinton Foundation for the “inspiration and the support” to make behavioral, policy and systematic changes to fight obesity and related health problems.

“Together, we’ll move the needle in a positive and healthy direction toward wellness,” she said.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation aims to combat childhood obesity and is a partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Health Matters 2013: Rep. Raul Ruiz absent, hopes to hear about social responsibility

Dr. Raul Ruiz stood last year to address President Bill Clinton at the first Health Matters conference. Months later, the president flew back to California to endorse the emergency room physician for Congress.

This time around, the newly elected Congressman isn’t among the heavyweights who are talking about the future of the nation’s health at the second-annual “Health Matters: Activating Wellness in Every Generation,” held Tuesday at the La Quinta Resort and Club.

The former president, Chelsea Clinton, Deepak Chopra, Jillian Michaels, Humana Chairman Michael McCallister, and former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher are featured speakers.

Sen. Christopher Murphy from Connecticut was also on stage.

Ruiz, who was sworn into office earlier this month, was in meetings in Washington D.C., a spokeswoman told us. The House of Representatives is in session this week.

In an emailed response to questions from The Desert Sun, Ruiz said he hopes that conference leaders focus on “social responsibility and the role of the community” in improving health.

Three quick question-and-answers from that email with Rep. Raul Ruiz:

What would you would like to see addressed at the Health Matters conference?
In addition to an emphasis on personal responsibility for healthy living, I would like to see the Health Matters Conference focus on social responsibility and the role of the community in improving health care access and health education for all people.

Any thoughts on what has been accomplished since last year’s Health Matters conference?
I’m very pleased that the Clinton Health Matters Initiative is committed to improving health and wellness and fighting obesity in the Coachella Valley.

What will your “homework,” as President Clinton would say, be for the next year?
My goal is to continue the work I started as a doctor in the Coachella Valley and build coalitions within the community to identify ways we can improve access to affordable, high-quality healthcare and health education for all people.


Ruiz was featured in a brief video interview shown before a panel on “Healthy Communities,” which included the mayors of Coachella and Palm Springs.

Coachella Valley has one of the worst health care crises — both in terms of consequences and access to healthcare — in the nation, Ruiz said in the video.

Ruiz was grateful, he said, that Clinton chose to include the valley in his Health Matters initiative.

“If we can improve the health care access for everybody, not only in healthcare delivery but also in health education, then we can make the Coachella Valley and the surrounding areas one of the healthiest communities in the entire nation,” Ruiz said.

Health Matters 2013: How to partner with wired Coachella Valley Unified students

President Bill Clinton and his team of medical experts heard Tuesday about the thousands of students in the eastern Coachella Valley clamoring for iPads.

Clinton is sitting front row at the La Quinta Resort and Club for his second-annual health and wellness conference, Health Matters: Activating Wellness in Every Generation.

During the “Health Transformation” panel, medical experts focused heavily on data sharing and how evolving technology affects healthcare.

Coachella Valley Unified School District Superintendent Darryl Adams stood and eagerly waved his program for attention.

Adams told the panel about the district’s iPad pilot program, under which thousands of students will be wired.

“I want to partner with you. Could you help us?” he asked.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, chief medical editor NBC News, turned to the panel and asked what they would do to empower kids who are “impoverished, but wired.”

Dr. Donald Berwick, former president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, spoke.

“Each kid needs to know they’re not alone,” he said. “One of the great opportunities you have now is for kids to be able to say, I have this problem. Who else has it? What have you done?

“By the way, I’m thrilled to hear the school system getting involved here,” Berwick continued. “Health is not going to be solved in health care.”


During her panel on “Access to Healthy Lifestyles,” Chelsea Clinton mentioned the Coachella Valley Unified School District again.

She praised the iPad campaign and cited it specifically as an example when asking panelists how government can help.


Health Matters 2013: How Bill Clinton got to the Golden Globes

When President Bill Clinton began his first healthcare panel in La Quinta on Tuesday, his relationship with Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg stole the spotlight.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, a longtime Clinton friend and chief medical editor for NBC News, will moderate the “Health Transformation” panel for the second-annual Health Matters conference.

But first she joked with Clinton about his surprise appearance Sunday at the Golden Globes, alluding to show co-host Amy Poehler’s reaction to Clinton’s appearance on stage.

“So rumor has it that Hilary Clinton’s husband was spotted” at the Golden Globes, Snyderman said from the stage Tuesday at the La Quinta Resort and Club.

“Yeah, it’s not my forum, is it?” Clinton said.

“I thought you did pretty darn well,” Snyderman responded.

“Well, Steven Spielberg let me write my own script, which I couldn’t believe,” Clinton said.

Clinton went on to explain his role in the development of the -nominated “Lincoln” and his long relationship with Steven Spielberg.

“On a couple occasions he’s been nice enough to send me a script with some relevance to something I know and asked me to read it,” Clinton said.

Spielberg sent Clinton at least three copies of the “Lincoln” script, asking him his thoughts on the character of Lincoln. That’s what led to his introduction of the film Sunday at the Golden Globes.

“So he asked me to introduce it and explained what the historical importance was, and I agreed to do it,” Clinton said.

Clinton said he thought some of the language was “a little too earthy, if you wanted 9-year-olds to go to the movie.” But he spoke highly of the movie and its portrayal of the fellow president.

“I thought the movie should be a movie for general audiences, and it was very carefully done based on diaries,” Clinton said.

Health Matters 2013: Bill Clinton thanks Coachella Valley for welcoming him back

President Bill Clinton took the stage Tuesday morning in La Quinta for the second annual Health Matters: Activating Wellness in Every Generation.

About 400 stakeholders in various industries — education and health experts among them —

Clinton made the opening remarks after “The Biggest Loser” Jillian Michaels led attendees in a chilly morning workout.

“I want to thank everyone in the Coachella Valley for welcoming us back,” Clinton said.

Clinton talked about falling childcare obesity rates. He lamented the link between the economy and healthcare; that employers cannot increase wages because of the high costs of healthcare.

Then he singled out a 14-year-old boy in the audience named Carter who worked with his mom to create a device that helps infuse water with fruit. All conference attendees will get one.

“We don’t need a government solution to all these things,” Clinton said. “There are things we can do together that will make a difference.”


Celebrity memories from the Hope/Humana, Part 1

Since 2000, I have covered the celebrity field at the Bob Hope Classic, which is now known as the Humana. I basically work under Larry Bohannan. What I always tell people is that Arnie had his army and Larry his lackeys. That’s me.

But I am a star gazer, and I do love doing the celebrity stuff.

Here are some of my favorite moments.

FIRST MEMORY: It was Bill Murray’s first and only time at the Bob Hope. It would be the last time Bob was doing active duty. Because my parents were immigrants, they loved everything American and that’s what Bob Hope represented. But Bob couldn’t talk much, and needed help being moved around. It was still a thrill. I was also a big fan of Bill Murray, and I asked him why did he finally decide to play the Hope. “I feel like I can finally beat Bob Hope.”

HERCULES: Kevin Sorbo was at the height of his Hercules fame when he played in the Bob Hope in 2000. Along the fairway Patricia Van Howten was hosting a party and her friend Mona Smith had a cutout of Sorbo as Hercules. When Sorbo walked by, he saw the cutout and posed with the party goers. My memory was hazy, but he might have also had a margarita as well. The cutout was Mona Smith’s daughter’s idea, who was also named Mona, 17, who went to Palm Desert High School.

SHUTTLE EXPLOSION: On Feb. 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded before the fourth round of the Bob Hope Classic. Playing in the celebrity field was CNN host Aaron Brown, who was also the lead anchor. Basically, he was in Anderson Cooper’s spot with CNN. He was very gracious with me. He flew in from the State of the Union address overnight to be at the Hope and was very enthusiastic about being here. But when the shuttle exploded, he ended up playing his final round that Saturday and spoke to me afterwards.

“I sat there and saw it and I was like, `Oh man, oh man,’ ” Brown said in our 2003 celebrity notebook. “The truth is, I felt kind of deflated by it all. I was like in two places. There’s a part of me that’s trying to figure out if I should fly home now and that didn’t make any sense. Going to (the CNN offices in) LA didn’t make any sense because I didn’t have any clothes. I felt like I was in two places today and it was difficult.

“I felt a profound sadness at what happened. It’s horrible. A golf tournament, even a fun one, it didn’t matter. It took the fun out of it today for me.”

Unfortunately, all the other major anchors left what they were doing that Saturday to man their respective coverage. There was a blacklash towards Brown. By that Tuesday, it seemed like TV critics at several major paper — USA Today, LA Times and the Washington Post — made reference to the incident. Because Brown didn’t speak, the Desert Sun quote was used in all the stories.

I felt bad that costed Brown his job. I still do today.

MR. PRESIDENT: An unexpected moment for me was getting a chance to interview President Gerald Ford, who came out to the tournament in 2001 to assume some hosting duties as Bob Hope was unable to do. A funny moment from that had to do with Thomas Gibson, the actor who played Greg in the sitcom “Dharma and Greg.” He had hit a fan in the gallery with an errant shot. President Ford comforted him.

“When I got there, she was administering ice and I apologized and I still feel bad about it and I told President Ford about it,” Gibson said in 2001. “He said, ‘Oh, don’t worry. I’ve hit a few people.’ I said, ‘Yeah, you’re the former president. People will cut you a little more slack.’

“He was very nice. He said he and President Clinton, and former President Bush hit two people. I didn’t hit two people.”

I guess I should try to confirm that with President Clinton.



Health Matters: What you need to know for Bill Clinton’s conference

Former President Bill Clinton spoke at the 2012 Health Matters conference. (Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun)

President Bill Clinton will host his second-annual Health Matters conference in the Coachella Valley this week.

“Health Matters: Activating Wellness in Every Generation” is slated to run from 7 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at the La Quinta Resort and Club.

The conference, which precedes the Humana Challenge PGA Tour event, will bring together 400 stakeholders to talk health and well being.

Among the highlights of the scheduled events, which is for pre-approved participants:

  • “The Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels will return to host another morning workout.
  • Chelsea Clinton will moderate a panel “Access to Healthy Livings,” during which Dr. Deepak Chopra and actress Barbra Streisand are scheduled to speak.
  • Michaels will moderate a panel on “Living Healthy” that includes Olympic gold medalist Kristen Armstrong Savola.
  • Coachella Mayor Eduardo Garcia, Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and Desert Healthcare District president Dr. Glen Grayman are among those scheduled for a “Healthy Communities” panel.

Ask a question: Tweet your questions to @ClintonTweet, and  make sure to add #HealthMatters2013

Hear from people at the conference: Follow the tweets of celebrity guests, panel speakers and The Desert Sun reporters via this list.

Join the Twitter conversation: Add #HealthMatters2013 to each of your tweets, and check out the rest of the tweets with that hash tag.

Watch the live video: Clinton Foundation is providing a live stream of the Health Matters Conference that we’ve paired with live tweets from the event.