The 2013 Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Symposium hosted former Congressman and presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul in Shriver Hall at 8 p.m. last Friday.
As with all MSE events, Ron Paul’s speech was free and open to the public. Reserved seating was also available.
“We’re going to be talking about my favorite subject, the freedom philosophy. And also the fact that there is a revolution going on and we’re in the midst of it. And also, I’m going to tonight talk a little bit about the ending of the empire, which I think is a good idea. But we do face a lot of problems and I like to go to the college campuses to talk to all the young people,” Paul said to begin his speech.
Paul immediately delved into his ideas for how to improve the economy. To this end, he proposed the abolition of both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Federal Reserve System, which he repeatedly emphasized was celebrating its centennial. Furthermore, he advocated for reforming the banking system, saying that individuals with savings accounts are unfairly penalized through the current system of interest rates. Paul also called for the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment, which would remove the national income tax and, he said, stimulate economic growth.
But Paul’s talk was not solely on economic issues. He lauded Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning as heroes for disclosing the secret spying by the government on both domestic and foreign targets. He also sharply criticized alleged drone strikes on American citizens and the bulk of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
“There’s another part to this. Freedom isn’t seen as a whole, it’s seen in parts — economic liberty and personal liberty. But it should be one. It should be your liberty in economic matters and how you run your life,” Paul said.
Paul finished his speech by commenting on the idea of American exceptionalism.
“We’re not exceptional in the sense that we know what’s best for everybody, that American exceptionalism is that you better do it our way or we’ll take care of you,” Paul said. “We could be an exceptional nation if we follow the laws, if we promoted free markets, promoted civil liberties [and] promoted a foreign policy of peace and prosperity.”
Immediately following the speech, audience members lined up at microphones in the aisles for the opportunity to pose questions to the former congressman.
There was a gaffe during the period of questioning that directly followed the speech. Paul misspoke and mistakenly referred to the University as “John Hopkins.” At this, many in the crowd began to laugh and corrected the absence of the ’S’ in the University’s name by hissing the ’S’ sound and by shouting the full name. The disturbance continued through several minutes of Paul’s subsequent answer.
The response to Paul’s talk among the students, parents and community members in attendance was largely mixed. While there were many enthusiastic supporters in the audience, there were also many students who were quick to condemn Paul.
“I think it was really interesting seeing how the Hopkins community reacted to Ron Paul’s appearance and his speech. I thought it was interesting that this was a really friendly and a really unfriendly audience,” freshman Simon Bohn said.
Even Bohn himself had mixed reviews of Paul.
“I think he ignores a great deal of needy people, and his overall policies are very unrealistic — I think he’s very idealistic,” Bohn said. “I do have to say I do support his positions on the Fourth Amendment. I agree with him that we do have a right to privacy.”
Other students liked the way Paul answered audience members’ questions.
“I found it most interesting during the question and answer period. It was intriguing to hear what some people had to ask. You could tell some of them took their questions personally, but some of the responses weren’t quite what they were expecting. He would completely politicize some of the questions, like any politician would say, and not answer them directly,” freshman Andres Hernandez said.
Aidan Christofferson, co-chair of the MSE Symposium, felt the event went extremely well.
“The event itself could not have gone better. We were able to fill every seat in Shriver with Hopkins students, their parents and members of the wider community,” Christofferson wrote in an e-mail to The News-Letter. “Dr. Paul gave a passionate, rousing speech which was hopefully enjoyed by all, regardless of their political affiliation. He entertained challenging questions with consistency and honesty.”
Although doors opened at 7:30 p.m., audience members were lined up more than half an hour beforehand on the Wyman Quad. Members of the activist group Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) passed through the milling crowd, handing out pocket constitutions and speaking to audience members about YAL’s goals and principles.
YAL, formed as a result of youth and college participation in the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign, is a nationwide group comprised of hundreds of chapters and thousands of members. Its presence on Homewood Campus, however, is minimal. It is listed as ‘newly forming’ at Hopkins on the YAL website.
“We inherit a corrupt, coercive world that has lost respect for voluntary action. Our government has failed and dragged our country into moral decay. The political class dominates the agenda with a violent, callous, controlling grip. And, for this we do not stand. We welcome limited government conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians who trust in the creed we set forth,” reads a portion of the YAL Statement of Principles.
Paul is a self-identified libertarian, notable for his staunch opposition to the Federal Reserve System, taxation and government regulation of the economy. He was invited to speak on campus because his unique political philosophy tied in with the MSE Symposium theme, “Learning From Experience: the Path Ahead for Generation Y.”
“The idea is that every speaker is a part of a balanced symposium that explores different sides to challenging questions. Considering two speakers were involved in the Obama administration, we thought it salient to represent both sides of the political spectrum,” Christofferson wrote. “Dr. Paul seemed like an ideal candidate to present another side to various challenges for our generation.”
Beyond this, Paul presented MSE with an opportunity to spark debate on the Homewood Campus.
“Dr. Paul emerged as a potential target that would initiate a campus wide discussion, and would provide the Symposium with a refreshingly diverse opinion on a range of topics,” Christofferson wrote.
Paul was born in Pittsburgh in 1935 and graduated from Gettysburg College with a degree in Biology. He earned a medical degree from Duke University’s School of Medicine before serving in the United States Air Force as a surgeon during the 1960s. Paul was a privately practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in Texas when he decided to run for Congress in the late 1970s. He represented Texas’s 22nd congressional district through the early 1980s but left the House of Representatives in 1984 to return to his practice.
Nevertheless, Paul returned to politics in 1997 as the representative for Texas’s 14th congressional district and ran for the presidency three times — in 1988 as the Libertarian candidate, and 2008 and 2012 as a Republican candidate in the primary elections.
Since leaving elected office in 2013, Paul has continued to be politically active as a speaker on the lecture circuit and as an author of several books.
Paul’s appearance marked the fourth speaker brought to campus by MSE this year.
“I am particularly happy about the turnout this season and the campus-wide response to the program. We have filled Shriver twice, and have come close to capacity on other occasions,” Christofferson wrote.
Kal Penn, whose scheduled appearance on Oct. 8 was postposed, will be the final MSE speaker later this semester.