Newt Gingrich visits Northwestern, says students ‘wasting their time’ protesting racism


Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich addresses a bipartisan audience in the Louis Room in Norris University Center on Monday night. His talk, which touched on everything from potential nuclear war to racism, was met with a standing ovation and some pushback from the crowd.

David Fishman, Reporter

College students protesting institutionalized racism are “wasting their time,” according to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who addressed a packed crowd in Norris University Center on Monday night.

“I’m happy to say all lives matter,” he said. “I’m not going to say one group of lives matter more than the other. That’s racist.”

The response sparked an exchange between Medill sophomore Anna Waters and Gingrich about safe spaces and historical oppression of black people.

“We have spent the last 60 years trying to get rid of segregation,” Gingrich said. “We’re not going to be bullied because a handful of people decide they can be important without having earned it.”

Students of color could eliminate racism by studying hard, working and getting wealthy, he added.

Speaking to a bipartisan crowd Monday, Gingrich received a standing ovation upon entering the Louis Room, which held more than 350 people. He began with an overview of current politics, joking about the two Republican frontrunners: Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

“At that magic moment when (America) wanted somebody different,” Gingrich said. “Who dances across the stage but the star of ‘The Apprentice’ and the impresario of Miss Universe — the inventor of the Trump tie.”

Gingrich attributed Trump’s rise in popularity to America’s recent call for unconventional politicians.

After running an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2012, Gingrich became a political commentator for Fox News and CNN. Today, he produces policy documentaries, gives speeches around the country and advises a major lobbying firm.

Over the course of about 90 minutes, including a lengthy Q&A, Gingrich touched on everything from potential nuclear war to Republican party unity. But what garnered the most attention was his assertion that concealed carry permits for weapons might have saved lives in Paris last Friday when terrorists killed 129 people, wounding hundreds more.

“It is kind of weird that the only people who get guns in France are terrorists,” he said. “Concealed carry would, in fact, save lives.”

His response, reiterating a tweet he posted during the attack, received a standing ovation. Afterward, Gingrich told The Daily that U.S. officials should pursue suspicious individuals or risk a similar assault here.

College Republicans invited Gingrich to Northwestern as its fall speaker after receiving a grant worth up to $20,000 from Young America’s Foundation, a conservative youth organization. Last year, the group hosted presidential candidate Rick Santorum who spoke on national security.

“By every metric, this was the most successful event thrown in my time here,” NUCR president Harrison Flagler told The Daily. “The dialogue was excellent, we had really great questions and Gingrich spoke about really great topics. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Gingrich first entered Congress in 1978, after two prior attempts. Rising through the ranks, in 1994 he became Speaker of the House, introducing the “Contract with America,” a conservative plan to balance the budget. That same year the GOP won back control of the House for the first time in more than four decades. Gingrich remained Speaker until 1998, when an attempt to impeach President Clinton backfired and forced him to resign.

During the Q&A, Gingrich said it was “arrogant and hubristic” to assume humans played a role in rising temperatures and a changing planet — a statement received by loud applause.

Another hot-button topic at the event was education reform, an issue Gingrich ran on when he sought the 2012 Republican nomination.

“We need to rethink from the ground up every school that’s failing,” Gingrich said. “Because they are at the heart of income inequality.”

Sammy Cuautle, a Republican who attended the event, said he grew up in a lower-middle class family. Attending mediocre schools, he said, he dealt with many education issues.

“I had to work really hard and deal with my peers looking down on that,” the Weinberg freshman said. “It’s up to us to fix that. Education is not a partisan issue at all; it’s something that every American should care about.”

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