Santorum highlights traditional conservative values during DePaul talk

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Santorum highlights traditional conservative values during DePaul talk

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A week after protesters shut down Milo Yiannopoulos’ speech, the Young America’s Foundation hosted former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) Tuesday night at DePaul’s Welcome Center.

The speech, attended by students and faculty from various points on the political spectrum, was quiet in comparison to last week. Aside from a few people asking questions that challenged Santorum’s views, those in attendance didn’t disrupt the nearly two-hour event. If they had, they would have been escorted out of the building, event organizers announced.

In light of the security issues last week, Santorum’s speech had additional security. Administrators, as well as Public Safety officers were present both outside and inside the event.

Nicole Been, president of the DePaul College Republicans, said before the event that she wanted the event to be a good, civil discussion of conservative and traditional values.

“Sen. Santorum is an accomplished senator and politician,” Been said. “We want this event to be educational for people.”

Santorum’s speech was heavy on the educational side. Ranging from the values instilled in America by the Constitution and Bill of Rights to the differences between France and America, Santorum focused on American exceptionalism and protecting the God-granted, inalienable rights of America.

Students who were not affiliated with the Republicans or YAF came to the talk out of curiosity. Many were still talking about the protests and other events of last week that the school’s administration and students are still dealing with.

“He’s a professional politician – he doesn’t say things to intentionally provoke people,” Randy Vollarth, a DePaul alum, said. “I think the event is important to see how DePaul handles another speaker people don’t necessarily agree with.”

Anastasia Perry, a DePaul junior, was curious about how the events would compare or contrast to last week’s event and protest.

“I read about (the event), and we talked about it in my (social movements) class,” Perry said. “I thought it would be interesting in light of recent events and I wanted to see how it would compare to last week because there were a lot of negative things that happened. I hope more voices from both sides of the issue can be heard.”

Matthew Girson, a DePaul professor of art, media and design, attended because of the tension and to see what Santorum had to say on issues of free speech on campus.

“With all the recent events I wanted to be here to witness what was going on tonight,” Girson said. “This is an opportunity for DePaul to show its colors and show respect for diversity on its campus.”

Santorum’s speech, and the questions that followed touched on issues of diversity, as well as others that are prevalent on college campuses and on the campaign trail. In relation to free speech on campus, he said that the use of the word “bigot,” as well as calling people racists, was one way to bully opposing viewpoints into silence. Those who control power, he said early on in his speech, want to silence other voices.

He also touched on safe spaces and climate change, both of which he dismissed. Though humans may play a role in the changing climate, he said, there is no science to back up the notion that climate change is entirely man-made.

As for his Trump endorsement, Santorum said that Trump’s list of potential nominees – and the fact that those Hillary Clinton may nominate would only detract from the God-given rights of Americans – sealed the deal. The protection of rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights from government infringement was a theme of the talk.

The speech focused primarily on traditional conservative values. Santorum touched on abortion and marijuana usage, but came back time and again to the importance of those in the room – the future leaders of America, he said – to stand up for their beliefs and return to the principles, including freedom of religion and freedom of speech, that America was founded on.

“There were some ideas that he talked about that I hadn’t thought about before,” Kati Danforth, a member of the DePaul College Republicans who asked Santorum about foster care policies, said. “I thought some parts (of the speech) were moving. I didn’t expect him to be as open-minded, but that’s what makes a good politician.”

Santorum said throughout his time at the podium that a discussion of ideas, as well as the representation of varying viewpoints, is important to American society, as well as to college campuses. All people, regardless of where they stand on the issues, he said, should be given their opportunity to speak.

“My responsibility as a leader, and your responsibility as a citizen, is to go out and vote your vote, and give others the opportunity to speak and respect them, then fight the battle the next day,” Santorum said.

Fighting the battle has become a more prescient issue. No protesters disrupted the speech, but the events of last week were not forgotten entirely. For those in attendance, Santorum’s talk illustrated the issues with freedom of speech from a conservative viewpoint and invited students into a tamer discussion that was lacking at last week’s event.

“What he’s talking about is best for all of us,” Danforth said. “I wish the protesters from last week came to this event to see the open-minded dialogue. All views need to be heard.”