John Ashcroft is the first speaker the Knox Republicans have invited to Knox College since any of them can remember and they believe it was the right choice.
According to the non-liberals who attend Knox College, the school needs speakers that are more diverse.
“He brought a different viewpoint to campus. We weren’t trying to change anyone’s mind, but if he did, then great. We just want honest debate. If we brought a moderate — will he challenge people?” said senior Maurice Harris, president of the Knox Republicans.
“He brings new ideas to campus, and I’m familiar with his history,” said Kelly Walsh, a sophomore and an Independent.
“We wanted to make a statement, and we wanted someone who shares our views, like conservatism, personal responsibility, and [his] leadership,” said junior Mike Burt.
Although John Stossel was the original choice, the Knox Republicans view the change in plans as an unforeseen improvement. Although approximately $12,000 to $13,000 were raised under the pretense that Stossel was the speaker, Burt said the alumni and trustees who gave the money did not feel tricked.
“The donors were more receptive to Ashcroft as a speaker. If they knew it was him they would have given even more money,” Burt said.
Many of the Knox Republicans admire him deeply and see him as an average man, with more than average abilities.
“I sat right next to him at dinner, and he talked about sports and restaurants, and he asked questions about the college, like how many students have a car on campus. He was easy-going and relaxed. People kind of make him this mean, evil guy, but he’s like your grandfather almost,” said Harris.
“I admire him for his integrity. He is a man of convictions, word, and faith. The way he leads his life is something everyone can take a little piece of,” said Burt. “I have an intense amount of respect for him.”
Some Republicans were tolerant of the protesters.
“They have the right to do that. Do I like it?…I saw a lot of inaccuracy. It didn’t cause a huge disruption, so honestly I didn’t mind it,” said Harris.
When asked about Ashcroft’s possible guilt when it comes to allegations of unauthorized torture, Harris denied Ashcroft’s direct responsibility.
“Technically it was under his watch but its Congress ultimately that sets reservations. To define torture is under Congress’ jurisdiction. What torture is to him is his own personal belief. It’s not law, it’s not binding,” said Harris.
Walsh felt similarly about the protesters and their allegations.
“They’re open to their own ideas. I don’t agree with them but…,” said Walsh.
“I don’t mind them. They have the right to protest,” said sophomore Erin Souza.
Only Burt admitted to frustration caused by the protesters.
“To disrupt him is very against what we stand for at Knox. It took away what could have been gained from it,” said Burt.