On Friday, March 30th, Republican presidential candidate Governor Mitt Romney addressed Lawrence University and the Appleton community in Stansbury Theatre.
Romney’s visit to Appleton was formally announced to all Lawrence students in an email sent the day before his arrival. The short notice, combined with Stanbury Theatre’s limited seating, made it difficult for students to acquire reservations at the event. Junior Minh Nguyen said, “One of my friends said that it was frustrating when she was told after waiting in line for an hour that government and economics majors were prioritized for seating at the event.”
Junior and Lawrence University Community Council President Jake Woodford opened the event by saying that “Lawrentians have been and will be ready to engage in an honest and respectful discussion”. He then introduced U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan, Wisconsin’s 1st District Representative, to the audience. Ryan described Wisconsin as the “epicenter of political discourse for quite some time” before allowing Romney to take the podium, which read “Restore America’s Promise”.
Romney began by pointing out that American was currently experiencing its highest level of unemployment, home foreclosures, and poverty since the Great Depression. He declared that President Barack Obama “did not start the recession, but certainly did not lead the recovery” and divulged his own plan to “restore freedom and opportunity” through lowering taxes, updating regulations, fostering job creation and encouraging innovation.
At the end of his talk, Romney received a standing ovation and stepped down from the stage to shake hands with members from the crowd. As the audience slowly dissipated, community members gathered with familiar faces to discuss the major policy announcement. Dave Murphy, of Appleton, admitted, “I came in somewhat undecided on the upcoming election, and by the end, I was pretty inspired by his speech.” Junior Austin Federa, however, had hoped for a question-and-answer session and “would have appreciated him taking even two or three questions from the audience”.
Outside the theatre, a student organized protest gathered with signs. Though the protesters were mostly all Lawrence students, they ranged in gender, ethnicity, major, and year. Senior Sam Golter, one of the protesters, emphasized that they were participating in a “peaceful protest” and “standing in unity against Romney’s policies”.
Assistant Professor of Government and Stephen Edward Scarff Jason Brozek said, “I appreciate the work that so many people did behind the scenes to put an event like this together, and I was thrilled to see so many students engaging in political discussion – both inside Stansbury, as well as demonstrating outside. I’m sure we’ll continue to have campus visits by local, state and national candidates between now and November 6th, so let’s keep it up.”