Hope Anderson ‘22 & Jonathan Lee ‘20
Slow down, get out of your silo, and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” Those were the three axioms former Governor of Ohio and 2016 Republican presidential candidate John Kasich wished to impart on the audience during his November 11th talk in the Duke Family Performance Hall.
Kasich, full of anecdotes, started his speech by describing how he landed a 20-minute meeting with former President Richard Nixon as an 18 year-old freshman at Ohio State by incessantly pestering the college president, a friend of Nixon’s. He said this example demonstrated the type of determination that is necessary to achieve one’s goals.
The crowd received Kasich’s anecdotes throughout the night with laughter, and many attendees applauded his political and policy-based comments, which included healthcare reform and balancing the budget.
In his opening monologue, Kasich also talked about his personal background and the power of the individual to solve issues on a community level.
“You don’t have to move a mountain to make a difference,” Governor Kasich said.
Kasich’s belief in individual influence extended beyond local activism to larger political movements. “Power comes from the bottom up,” he said, referencing the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage. “If college campuses hadn’t erupted, we’d still be in Vietnam.”
However, in the Q&A portion of the event, one student challenged Kasich on this bottom-up responsibility, arguing that the onus is also on politicians to “be receptive and dynamic in their efforts to reflect the change that we as American citizens call for.”
Kasich’s 30-minute speech was followed by a 45-minute panel moderated by political science professor Dr. Susan Roberts. Governor Kasich, along with Dr. Bill Kristol, Vann Professor of Ethics in Society, and Isaac Bailey, James K. Batten Professor of Communication Studies, discussed the future of the Republican party, the political climate in the age of “Trump and Trumpism,” and continued to discuss the balance of interpersonal and systemic change.
Three students also asked the panelists questions about the responsibility of politicians to actively listen to constituents, the role social media plays within free speech on college campuses, and the pace of change for complex issues such as climate change.
Many students, whether or not they agreed with Kasich politically, found his talk valuable. “I think we did find some things that we can all agree on,” said Jared Herr ‘22. “Kasich made a lot of good points, not all that I agreed with, but some that I did. Bringing a prominent Republican to campus was a worthwhile thing for the students, but the price tag was debatable.”
Tommy Cromie ‘22 criticized the makeup of the panel. “With Bill Kristol, Governor Kasich, and only Professor Bailey to check them, it was difficult for the conversations to be balanced,” he said.
Of the overall tone of the night, Marshall Bursis ‘20 said, “It seemed like Kasich is definitely still running for office… the way he talked made it seem like he’s still competing for votes.”
However, some students took issue with a perceived lack of nuance. “I think Kasich presented himself well, but at points I think he relied too much on his charisma,” said Eleanor Lilly ‘22. “I get why that’s important in a younger audience, I get why he thought that was necessary. But he would say something that I was kind of uncertain about, and then he would brush it off with some comedic addition.”
While most questions centered on Trump and the fracture of the Republican Party, Kasich’s actual speech remained largely nonpartisan. He stressed the power of gradual change in achieving goals and painted a rosy picture of American political idealism. “Very seldom are you going to see dramatic [change]… everything gets done in steps,” Kasich said. “It doesn’t mean that you don’t have your eye on the North Star. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t passionate.”