OBERLIN — A spirited full house greeted former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul in Oberlin College’s Finney Chapel on Sunday evening as a part of the college’s Convocation Series.
Paul, known for his strict interpretation of the constitution, limited government intervention and support of free market capitalism, came through Oberlin on a speaking tour to give a lecture, “Liberty Defined,” from Paul’s 2011 book of the same name.
“We now have accepted this notion that the government can solve all … problems,” Paul said on Sunday. “You just have to remember that when the government gets involved in trying to improve your personal and social life — when they want to get involved in how you spend your money, invest your money, take care of yourself economically — they can only do that at the expense of personal liberty.”
The retired congressman enthusiastically extolled the virtues of small government, limited regulation, personal property rights and the resurgence of an ethos of government that promoted “individual liberty protected equally” for all people.
Paul served 12-terms Republican congressman in Texas. He decided against a 13th congressional bid in 2012 to run for president on the Republican ballot in November.
With a crowd of primarily college students, Paul emphasized his commitment to a younger generation of citizens.
“I’ve been asked by (Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov): ‘What’re you doing these days?’— I lobby for liberty by going to the campuses of Americans who are interested in liberty,” Paul said.
The lecture was sponsored by the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians and funded primarily by the Ronald Reagan Political Lectureship Series, a yearly series sponsored by Oberlin College alumnus Steven Shapiro featuring speakers from the center-right of the political spectrum.
Nick Miller, college senior and president of the Oberlin College Republicans and Libertarians, contacted Paul in January after his congressional term ended, with the hope of bringing him to campus before Miller graduate in May.
“It’s been kind of dream of mine for a long time … (to) have the leader of the Libertarian movement come to Oberlin,” Miller said of the event. “Paul’s never really a nonstarter for anybody.”
Miller, who organized the lecture, said that he believed the Oberlin College community’s focus on activism and personal freedoms had unrecognized overlaps in Paul’s speech.
“The Oberlin community, the Oberlin faculty all have a kind of common vision, a common drive for social justice … a very sincere, a very nuanced, very passionate drive for this kind of thing,” Miller said. “But I think libertarianism is the most natural ally to beliefs such as these, the best ally … because you’re not free if you can’t control these types of resources.”
Kristopher Schermerhorn, a high school senior who drove from Waterford, Mich., to attend the event, was drawn to Ron Paul for his message of liberty and his consistent positions.
“There were so many points in terms of foreign policy, the gold standard, the decline of the dollar, so many different points, but at the core of it, was this philosophy of personal liberty,” Schermerhorn said. “Why is that important? Because I want to make my own decisions, because I don’t want the government coming into my bedroom and listening in on my conversations — I want them away from me.”
Paul spoke fervently on the topic of free speech but did not address recent incidents of hate speech on the Oberlin College campus. Students expressed disappointment with Paul’s lack of concrete examples.
“I was waiting for him to bring up Second Amendment rights, which seem like a big, pertinent clash between regulation and freedom, and I was disappointed that didn’t come up at all, especially in light of recent mass shootings,” said college senior Jamie Yelland.
“Other than that, I thought it was fun, if nothing else,” Yelland said.
Contact Emily Kennedy at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.