“Do you have a soul?” That was one of the many questions students asked former Attorney General John Ashcroft during last night’s question and answer session after his speech “Leadership in Challenging Times.” It was one more question Ashcroft refused to answer.
The evening started out reasonably quiet, with laughter being the main form of protest through an introduction by freshman Benjamin Keathley, president of The Knox Republicans and throughout the beginning of Ashcroft’s actual speech.
At first Ashcroft handled the protesting with resilience, remarking without aggression on the students holding up hands covered in “blood,” but as the night went on the discussion became more and more hostile.
Students stood up and disrupted the speech by cloaking their heads with black bags in protest of human rights abuse. When a fellow audience member yelled out, “Sit down we can’t see,” Ashcroft responded with “Neither can they, and they don’t want to.”
Dean Xavier Romano said, overall, it was a good Knox event.
“Students acted with some sort of discretion, which we’re all very appreciative of,” he said.
Mark Reisenbigler, a former Galesburg resident and current resident of Monmouth, felt the questioning got out of hand.
“Everybody gets up there as individuals trying to get their zingers in. I would say one out of ten were intelligent questions,” said Reisenbigler.
He went on to talk about the repetitiveness of some of the questions, such as the continued mentioning of waterboarding and torture.
“Are they only listening to catch phrases? They wanted to get applause. They‘re so big on attention that they‘re not looking at the other big issues,” said Reisenbigler.
Freshman Marie Evans said Ashcroft was the one being inconsiderate, especially to the gay and lesbian community at Knox. He refused to answer a question concerning the former Attorney General’s actions towards gay and lesbian organizations, a question posed by senior Graham Troyer-Joy, outfitted in a teal dress.
“It’s an issue that deserves notice from political leaders like him,” said Evans.
She thinks Ashcroft should have done more research about the Knox community in order to be more knowledgeable about what was relevant to the campus.
“He picked and chose his questions. He answered questions he knew well,” she said.