Newt Gingrich Dodges Campaign Troubles at Georgetown Visit
Speaking at Georgetown University's Healy Hall, GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich avoided recent campaign troubles and focused on American values, innovation, energy policies, and social security.
In his first appearance since announcing cutbacks of roughly one third of his campaign staff, Newt Gingrich gave a short speech at Georgetown University Wednesday that avoided campaign troubles and focused on the reasons he entered the presidential race.
The bulk of Republican presidential candidate's speech centered on his admiration for American values, innovation and exceptionalism, but he also mentioned energy and his proposed plan to alter the structure of Social Security in the speech.
"The two greatest choices your generation will face are, one: who are we as people? Are we still exceptional and think that our rights come from God, do we still think that the government is our servant, or are we drifting into a more European model," Gingrich asked. "The second is, can we take the things that work and integrate them into our system? ... You have to force innovation on bureaucrats, otherwise the system will never change."
Defending his proposal to move toward privatized Social Security, Gingrich argued that in addition to being more financially feasible in the long term, a private system would give control back to Americans.
"According to the Social Security actuary, if we had adopted a personal Social Security savings model in 1983, we would today have over 16 trillion in Social Security dollars. Your generation has a tremendous opportunity, but won't get it unless you force politicians. ... The plan increases your freedom by increasing your control over your money. ... No one tells you when to retire, it's your choice. ... There's no obligation. Why would you want the government to destroy your choices?"
Inside Healy Hall, many applauded points made during the speech, but outside a group of roughly 30 students protested his policies.
"We're here protesting Newt Gingrich and his policies, not the fact that he's here. He's fine to come to campus, but his policies are, and have been since he's gotten into Congress, in the service of the 1 percent and against the 99 percent," said sophomore Gavin Bade of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. "This protest is a Georgetown University Occupy and NAACP organized event."
Several students however, disagreed with this perspective.
"I thought the speech was fantastic, I thought he touched on a number of important issues and really tried to focus on their importance to the college students he's speaking to," said sophomore Luke Carter, who is the Georgetown College Republicans Chief of Staff.
"He spoke a lot to the worries and concerns that our generation does have and should have," added sophomore Hannah Miller, the vice chair of Georgetown College Republicans.
Gingrich fielded tough questions from students after the speech, getting into an almost heated debate with a Georgetown alumnus who had once worked as a janitor at his school and was offended by an earlier proposal Gingrich made that underprivileged students could find work as janitorial staff at their schools.
While the event's overall tone was cheerful, in many ways the mixed reception at Georgetown reflects larger troubles facing the Gingrich campaign.