Former U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Ollie North delivered a message of “hope and encouragement for the future” to a standing room only crowd in the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre Wednesday night.
But his appearance at GW marked more than a motivational seminar for the College Republicans. As the organization starts the year under the leadership of junior Jared Hosid, many students in the crowd said they hoped it would signal the long-overdue beginning of a new voice for Republican ideals on campus.
“I’m really excited, being a freshman from a small town, this is what I came to Washington for,” CR Sarah Lavelle said.
Punctuated by cheers and applause on several occasions, North’s speech coursed through topics from taxes to morality, ending with a free-wheeling question-and-answer session that included conservatives and liberals alike.
“There are no rights given to you by the Constitution. There are only rights protected by it. This document says that these are your God-given rights. They were not given by mankind and nor may they be taken by mankind,” North said.
North also berated D.C. government, saying, “It should not be front page news when D.C. schools open on time. Nor should we have an academic year go by when more students are killed at school than soldiers and sailors die in all the armed forces put together.”
North told students if they take nothing else from the night’s event, be sure to “study and thank (their) parents for paying (their) tuition.”
In an interview beforehand, North criticized President Clinton’s lack of personal responsibility.
“The president’s behavior makes it tough for any college to have an honor system if indeed there are no consequences,” North said. “It sends the message to young people and older people alike that you can act with impunity and get away with it.”
But for some in the crowd who came to jeer and disagree, North’s speech had an unexpected effect.
“I came expecting to hate your guts,” one audience member said to North. “My father is a lawyer and my mother is an NEA teacher. But I loved your speech and I think you’re an entertaining and honorable man. Although your words have been tainted by Iran-Contra, and that we cannot forget.”
Hosid said he intends not only to be the voice of Republicans on campus, but to use the CRs as a public relations machine to spread the GOP gospel.
“On this campus you don’t hear the conservative message. The professors seem to be overwhelming liberal,” Hosid said. “There is truth in the saying, `Communism is dead except in our classrooms.’ I’ve been in English courses that seemed like Marxist indoctrination classes.”
Hosid, who estimates current CR membership to be somewhere around 300, said large turnouts like the one at Wednesday’s speech are the key to the organization’s success.
As election time grows nearer, the CRs have ambitious plans for the fall. They intend to work on the campaign of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey, sponsor debates with other campus political groups, organize a voter drive and host a party on election night.
Hosid said he hopes students will heed North’s advice to “make a commitment other than to yourself, and to get involved in the political process.”
Several students, such as senior Brendan Shields, said North’s speech is an inspiration to do just that.
“I think Ollie North is a true patriot. He deserves a lot of credit for standing up for American values: a strong defense, a sound economy and family values,” Shields said.