By Hannah Way and Matt Koch
Certainly, this was a pivotal moment for the Loras College Republicans as well as Romney-Ryan supporters, but moreover, it was a chance for Loras to host a high-profile politician on campus.
Republican or Democrat, when a vice-presidential nominee yells “go Duhawks,” everyone gets chills.
GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan attracted an overflowing crowd to the Fieldhouse on Monday, with hundreds of attendees being forced to watch the rally outside.
The rally, which was organized as part of a Midwest bus tour, drew students and residents from around the tri-state area. After 1,000 people entered the Fieldhouse, the local fire marshal stepped in, preventing several hundred ticketholders from being able to enter.
Despite the initial disappointment for those supporters who were stuck outside, many remained to watch the congressman speak on a large screen outside. Estimates place the number of people watching outside the Fieldhouse between 500 and 800. Those who remained outside long enough for the speech to begin were encouraged to stay by Ryan, who promised to make an appearance with the crowd after the rally inside.
Inside, Republican nominee for U.S. Congress Ben Lange had the honor of introducing the nominee. Ryan’s wife and three young children joined him on stage as he explained to the supporters that this was very much a family affair. It was no coincidence that Ryan came to Loras; his own grandfather attended the college.
Ryan’s half-hour speech focused on the topics that have become the platform the Republican ticket this election year: the national debt, taxes, the creation of jobs and religious liberty.
The Romney-Ryan plan has been facing recent criticism by the Obama campaign and many media outlets for tax plan. Ryan set out to defend the plan proposed by the Republican nominee and offer insight into why Romney has the record of succeeding in the area.
“When Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts 87% of the legislators in his legislation were democrats,” reminded Ryan. “Did he demean them? Did he demagogue them? Did he distance them? No. He treated them with respect and reached across the aisle. He didn’t compromise his principles. And he cut taxes 19 times and he balanced the budget without ever raising taxes.”
Offering the conservative platform, Ryan spoke repeatedly about the need to cut taxes on small businesses in order to stimulate the economy and job growth. This principle of his five point economic plan is aimed at creating more than 12 million jobs in the next four years.
“This is the plan that we put on the table, specific ideas, real solutions, because we want to earn your support,” said Ryan. “We want to deserve this victory. It’s not just enough for us to criticize. We need to propose and that’s what we are doing: real solutions, solutions that have proven to work. Use our energy. Get people back into skills that are caught in between jobs.”
Ryan also touched on the importance of religious liberty that the Romney-Ryan ticket planned to adamantly defend. Ultimately it was on this issue that Ryan summarized the platform Romney-Ryan is running on.
“You see a government that presumes it can dictate our first amendment rights…We believe the goal of government is to protect our natural rights and to promote equality of opportunity so that everyone can make the most of their lives,” said Ryan. “We don’t believe that the government should be defining and regulating and dictating the returns of our rights and trying to equalize the results of our lives. We believe in freedom”
With the conclusion of Ryan’s speech, he exited shaking many supporter’s hands and proceeded to visit those who watched his speech outside. On a platform in front of both those who waited outside and those who had exited the Fieldhouse, he thanked all his supporters and Loras for hosting this event.
The hosting of this event was not simply a victory in the eyes of local Republicans, rather the Loras community benefited offering a unique experience to students: the opportunity to see politics up close
“It is a great opportunity to expose the educational mission of the college,” said President Jim Collins. “It exposes students to political points of views so they become more educated in the entire process.”
This focus on education was also echoed in the opinions of many in attendance that do not support the political opinions of the Republican Party.
“I am a proud Obama supporter, but I am here because I believe voters should pay attention to both sides,” said junior Sarah Link. “It’s a good experience for college students to get an honest look and challenge themselves and their beliefs.”
Giving students the opportunities to become more informed and aware is one aspect of a liberal arts education that Loras seeks to provide students. Yet Loras pushes its students to do more than just learn, it pushes its students to ethically make decisions and responsibly contribute. One way that students are obligated to this is by casting their ballots on Election Day, November 6th. And the importance of students’ votes was a theme that echoed throughout the night.
“Now Eastern Iowa, listen very closely, the eyes of the nation are watching you,” said Republican nominee for U.S. congress Ben Lange. “There are four paths to victory…Three of those paths including winning the State of Iowa. The swing congressional district or flip district you all live in, right here Dubuque, Iowa. They will listen to you. They will listen to you for the next 35 days.”