ETSU students berate Newt Gingrich while accusing him of incivility
Upset about Newt Gingrich appearing on campus during Civility Week, students at Eastern Tennessee State University accused him of being “racist, sexist, [and] anti-gay” while demanding that he “go away.”
Gingrich delivered remarks on “Civility in Politics” Thursday night as part of ETSU’s fifth annual “Civility Week,” attracting a small but vocal group of protesters to assemble outside the venue in protest, even though the event had backing from ostensibly neutral organizations such as Student Government and the Department of Political Science, International Affairs, and Public Administration.
Video footage obtained by Young Americans for Freedom, which also co-hosted the event along with College Republicans, shows a group of perhaps two dozen students, alumni, and community members holding signs and chanting, “racist, sexist, anti-gay/Newt Gingrich, go away.”
As Gingrich alluded to at the beginning of his speech, however, supporters far outnumbered the protesters, with over 500 students attending the lecture, including about 100 who showed up to greet him wearing “Gingrich 2016” t-shirts.
According to ETSU’s website, Civility Week “provides an opportunity for all of the campus community to join together in making a conscious effort to ensure that civility and protection of human dignity is central to the campus culture.” Other events held during the week included a “Corazon Latino” Community Festival, a “Fusion Multicultural Showcase,” and “Folksong in Social Reform.”
Although Gingrich served as a Republican Speaker of the House and is currently a Fox News contributor, CR President and YAF Chair Brandon Johnson pledged prior to the event that Gingrich would not advocate partisan issues, and would solely address the topic of civility in politics.
Gingrich, who was a history professor before entering Congress, hewed closely to that theme, offering an analysis of civility (and the occasional lack thereof) throughout the history of American politics, and stressing the importance of making a good-faith effort to understand the motivations of those with whom one disagrees.
“One of the keys to all this is to remember that the other person also has ideas, and to have at least a little bit of thought in the back of your head that maybe you’re not always right” Gingrich said, contrasting that approach with those on college campuses who believe they have found “The Truth … and if you don’t agree with them, you are opposing ‘The Truth,’ and therefore you should be kicked out of school, or shut up, or in some way penalized.”
He offered his own alma mater, Emory University, as an example of this trend, pointing out that students have demanded that the administration provide them with “safe spaces” in response to the name “Trump” being written in chalk on campus.
“In a world where ISIS wants to chop off your head, confronting a word in chalk should not be one of the more terrifying moments of your career,” Gingrich stated to enthusiastic applause. “That’s part of the problem right now: we take ourselves too seriously.”
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