Ron Paul at W&L

IMG_1630Last night, former Representative Ron Paul spoke to a packed room in Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.  The building held about 500 while another location was set up nearby to provide live video feed for those unable to fit inside.  The Contact Committee, the W&L Politics Department, and the W&L College Republicans sponsored the event.

Starting at 9 AM the day before, Contact began giving out tickets to Tuesday’s event.  However, in a mere forty minutes, all 350 tickets allotted for early seating were claimed, leaving the multitude with the hope of snagging one of the remaining 150 seats prior to the event on a first come first serve basis.

Given Dr. Paul’s numerous contributions to the rise of the liberty movement, along with the work I did on his campaign staff in 2007/08, and the fact that this event marked his first visit to the Shenandoah Valley, I knew that I had to make every effort to attend.  As I arrived slightly too late to secure one of the early tickets on Monday morning, I left Harrisonburg at about 3:30 PM on Tuesday along with fellow activist and blogger Helen Shibut of the Madison Liberty blog.

Outside the chapel at 4:30 PM
Outside the chapel at 4:30 PM

A light rain marked our departure and it continued to be our constant companion as we traveled along Interstate 81 and into Lexington.  Surprisingly, the parking lot closest to the chapel still had a couple of spots open and so we were able to avoid a lengthy walk.  More shocking still had to be the number of people standing outside the chapel when we arrived.  Given how quickly the tickets were exhausted, I envisioned a lengthy line of people waiting until they could enter the building at 6 PM.  However, due, in part, to the poor weather, we were the 7th and 8th to enter.  Even though not in line at that time, there were others who were already there.  For example, Karen Kwiatkowski and a contingent of like-minded folks were lingering inside a nearby building until the time drew closer.

Helen Shibut, Karen Kwiatkowski, and Cole Trower
Helen Shibut, Karen Kwiatkowski, and Cole Trower

The weather continued to degrade, but the line grew steadily and by the time that the doors opened, one could not see from one end of the crowd to the other.  Although the announcement indicated that attendees would be unable to come in the building without semi-formal attire, several people in line wore casual clothing such as blue jeans; it is uncertain whether these folks were allowed admittance.

Dr. Paul’s entered the main floor of the chapel to thunderous applause shortly after 7 PM.  He spoke on a wide variety of topics important to the liberty movement including, but not limited to: a non-interventionist foreign policy, the need for a sound currency and the impending financial collapse, the importance of sticking to political principles, the proper role of government, and the constant erosion of our civil liberties.  After his speech, he fielded a number of questions from the audience regarding what political party best embodied his principles, the issue of abortion, religious freedom, and concerns regarding the investigation into 9/11.  The entire event lasted for a little less than an hour and a half.

IMG_1637All in all, I would rate Dr. Paul’s visit to Lexington as a success.  The only change that I would suggest would be a larger venue.  According to the various event notices posted on Facebook, W&L could have easily filled a space that was two, three, or even four times larger.  So then, why did they choose the chapel?  Well, there is no question that the location is picturesque and is steeped in history.  The basement formally served as the office for Robert E. Lee and presently holds his remains. In addition, I was told that when Washington & Lee hosted Rudi Giuliani some time earlier, they had considerable difficulty reaching the 500-person threshold.  But, such concerns were not necessary that night.  After all, as Ron Paul reminds us, freedom, much like Dr. Paul himself, is popular.

9 Replies to “Ron Paul at W&L”

  1. As a recent W&L grad, I can shed some light on your last paragraph. The short answer is that there’s no other available indoor venue on campus that can seat 500+.

    Long answer: You have Keller Theater in the fine arts building which seats about 500, you have Lee Chapel which seats about 500, you have Stackhouse Theater which seats significantly fewer (this was the overflow room). You also have the Warner Center gym, which can be configured to seat over 2000, and you have the front lawn directly in front of Lee Chapel, which probably seats 1000-1200, but also has room for people to stand or bring their own chairs.

    The gym, which is where the famous quadrennial Mock Convention is held, was booked for a 7 PM ladies’ basketball game, and that would have been scheduled long before the speech. Had the speech been scheduled for the afternoon, it could have been on the lawn, but some interested students would have been in class and it would have to have been moved anyway because of the weather.

    The concern about filling the venue is also accurate; Lee Chapel was not packed when Clarence Thomas spoke (it was good and full, but a few more could have come in), and Karl Rove’s May 2011 appearance (which was outside on a beautiful day) was not well-attended either.

    1. Thanks for the info Samuel.

      During my trip to W&L on Monday, another location was suggested, I believe that it must have been the Warner Center. I know when trying to schedule a location for Dr. Paul at JMU, I advocated for as large a space as possible. After all, isn’t the primary purpose of bringing Ron Paul is to share his message with as large an audience as possible? Nevertheless, I do appreciate W&L’s efforts.

  2. It’s hearening that the young men and woman at W&L aren’t interested in hearing from the likes of Rove and Giuliani. While the Democrats wouldnt desire them in their camp, most of us know that those two are part of the single party dictatorship.

  3. I admire every student that took time out of their evening to listen to the message of Ron Paul. I drove from Charlottesville in dense fog and rain to attend. It was so worth it. It’s up to the youth to keep the torch of liberty lit. Here’s to the grassroots movement!

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