Trump on campus: South Carolina shows the way

The Donald showed up on campus.  There was no big, active protest, no shout-down, no juvenile antics, just a free exchange of ideas.  Yes, this took place at a college in the United States of America last week.  You many have given up hope that free speech still exists at any American college or university, given the University of Missouri and other campus disruptions recently.  (Communications professor Melissa Click, who tried to shut down freedom of the press, is still working.  And how many press freedom awards did the reporter and videographer who stood up for all of our constitutional rights get so far?  None?  Are you sure?)

Friday, November 20, the Republican front-runner attracted a polite, standing-room-only crowd of 3,500 as part of the Hipp Lecture Series, made possible by Wofford alumnus and American Defense International Chairman Van Hipp.  The event is part of The Commander-in-Chief Presidential Forum focusing on international affairs and national security.  Ben Carson arrives on campus December 2.

Before it went co-ed in 1972, Wofford was a Southern Gentleman’s Ivy College attracting top students, who wore suits and ties to class.  The professors were poor but devoted and keenly aware of South Carolina’s many battles for our Declaration of Independence and freedom.  The sister school, Converse College, just blocks away, attracted the best female students.  Today, Spartanburg is also home to the University of South Carolina Upstate, two junior colleges, a chiropractic college, and the Edward Via College of Medicine.  Spartanburg is definitely a college town.

Donald J. Trump was in this quintessential college town to address the bad deal college students are getting, with huge debts and poor job opportunities after graduation.  Even so, one student apparently didn’t hear him, as she complained to the local paper that he needed to do something to help students.

With Trump, the news cycle is focusing on an after-the-event, off-the-cuff comment making it appear that Trump endorsed forcing Muslims in the U.S. to register.  His supporters say the comment was edited to distort his words.  What he did say during his remarks is, “We have a radical Islamic terrorism problem[.]”  Then he pointed out that Hillary seems unable to use the term. 

Observers report that while Trump’s security detail seemed nervous, the Donald was cool, personable, and comfortable with the arrangements, the crowd, and himself.  He enthusiastically answered questions from students.  He told the crowd that 30% of the media in attendance were honest.

Before Trump’s arrival on campus, some students, trying to form a protest, put up posters, which were quickly torn down by other students who, I am told, felt that the protest was not part of “The Wofford Way.”  Snubbing that Way, about a dozen students tried to stage a walkout that went almost unnoticed and is described by one student as looking like a bathroom break.  Overflow attendees delightedly took their seats inside the arena.

Helping to maintain a hospitable atmosphere, Wofford president Nayef Samhat sent a letter to the entire campus, faculty, staff and students attesting to the value of free speech.

It is quite remarkable that South Carolina, again, is showing the nation how to behave.  Rather than become a Ferguson, the people of Charleston responded to the church shootings of nine good people with prayer and decorum.  And now, rather than becoming a Mizzou, the people of Wofford and Spartanburg show the nation’s colleges and universities how to respect free speech and the free exchange of ideas.

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