The Slavic Club hosted speaker Jerome A. Ballarotto on Feb. 22 to discuss the political and historical impact of assassinations in the U.S. The Trenton, N.J., native is a former Essex County prosecutor and former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Department of Justice.
He is also an alumnus from Seton Hall Law School, but the most eye-catching part of his life is his time with the Secret Service.
He was recruited during his undergraduate years at Loyola University and after graduating, served as a secret service agent for five years before going into law.
He was one of the few students picked to be a Secret Service agent during the Vietnam War.
He was recruited for the Secret Service during the late 1960s, in the decade of seemingly endless assassinations, like that of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. Before the presentation, Ballarotto stated what he wanted to impart.
“I want them to be familiar with how the United States specifically has developed as a result of the assassinations that have happened,” Ballarotto said. “Some of the assassinations that occurred have had dramatic effects on the history of America on how we progressed. Some of it has been good, some of it has been bad.”
Slavic Club President Teresa Gonzales, a senior diplomacy and international relations major, said that Ballaroto came to speak to the club after Professor Shiloff suggested it. Shiloff and Ballaroto are neighbors and Gonzales said Shiloff thought this would be a good event for the club.
Gonzales also highlighted why Ballarotto’s presentation was important to its organization.
“Because most of Slavic Club is diplomacy students, we thought it would be interesting because it’s not necessarily a Slavic topic but it pertains to most of our club members,” she said.
The room was filled with regular club members and guests waiting to hear about Ballarotto’s experiences.
When the event began, Ballarotto relayed how unconventional he was when he started out as a Secret Service agent. He always had long hair, which his fellow agents would make fun of him for and drove a Volkswagen Beetle as his Secret Service car.
He also talked about how the secret service became desegregated and how he worked closely with a new African American Secret Service agent member.
He went on to describe the basics of being an agent, like how everyone has to wear glasses for protection instead of fashion due to an acid throwing incident that happened overseas.
Members who attended this event remarked how they enjoyed the speaker and his presentation.
Grigoriy Shekhtman, a junior psychology major, learned a lot from the event.
He said, “The number one thing I took away is that we need to be open [to] both new experiences and ideas, but also consider old-fashioned ones as well.”
Adam Varoqua can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.