Image Courtesy of YAF
By Renee Rasmussen
On Tuesday, October 19 Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) hosted Senator Ted Cruz and Michael Knowles for a live recording of their podcast “Verdict with Ted Cruz.” Catholic University is the third college to host Cruz and Knowles, following the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M.
When asked after the event in an interview with The Tower why “Verdict” chose Catholic University on their live tour, Cruz commented, “We did a nationwide call for students to determine where we would bring Verdict on the road and we heard from students all over the country, and well, we heard an outpouring from students at Catholic, and it was really in response to the student interest and excitement.”
Compared to bigger universities such as Texas A&M, Catholic was quite a downsize in venue for Cruz and Knowles.
YAF’s president Catriona Fee commented on how this affected the planning of the event.
“This event was definitely a challenge to coordinate, in part because it was such a large event, and Catholic is a relatively small school,” Fee said. “However, it was possible in the end because so many aspects of the university came together to prioritize this event, and it wouldn’t have happened otherwise. In comparison to the other schools that hosted the event, CUA is a much smaller school, so the ability to pull off the same size of an event took a little more time.”
Although it was a big event, Catholic’s campus had a short time to prepare for Cruz and Knowles, with YAF making the official announcement a week before the event was planned to take place.
Still, the late announcement did not discourage attendance, with every seat filled and students standing in the back. Meaning over 500 people were in attendance, “Verdict” was easily one of the biggest events on Catholic’s campus so far this year.
Alexander Diaz, communications director for YAF and sophomore politics major thanked the community and campus for their support.
“I just want to thank Catholic for turning out and proving that, even though we are a small school, we can still bring a good crowd and a good discussion for speakers,” Diaz said.
Catholic students and staff were not the only ones in the audience. Many D.C. natives, University of Maryland students, and Georgetown students waited in line to see “Verdict.”
“I’m just here to see Ted Cruz, he’s one of the leaders of the conservative movement right now. And just do something you really can’t do on the campus of Maryland. Catholic University is a little more friendly to conservatives than UMD,” said Justin Wages, senior at the University of Maryland and declared candidate of Maryland State Delegate District 3A.
Following a short intro from Liz Wheeler and Former Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker, Cruz and Knowles finally took the stage to massive applause and began their live podcast.
The first question Cruz and Knowles were asked came from Catholic University Student Nick Sawson, a senior history major. He directed his question towards Cruz.
“Senator, I want to ask you about freedom. You talk a lot about freedom and you talk a lot about liberty. So what I’m asking tonight is: What is the purpose of human freedom? Is it the ultimate virtue of human beings that we should seek, or is there something more?” Swanson said.
After a round of applause, Cruz answered.
“That is a great and profound question, and we are starting with depth. But at the end of the day, I think every human yearns for meaning, yearns for a purpose larger than ourselves. But I think when it comes to freedom there is a different role if you are assessing ‘How am I going to live my life’ and there is a question of what the governmental policies that should be in place,” Cruz said. “We should protect rules that allow everyone to seek whatever faith question, whatever faith journey… I think we ought to have legal rules in place that protect the ability in each of us to try to answer the ultimate question.”
The next two questions were asked by Catholic students about immigration policy and reform, causing much of the talk to revolve around Cruz’s history and present dealings with the question of America and immigration.
The fifth question was asked by a working professional living in D.C., who interned for Cruz during his college career. He directed his question towards both Cruz and Knowles.
“Liberty is a word that is kind of used as a buzzword by the right but also used by the right to justify and allow for very vicious acts. So I was wondering if Michael and Senator Cruz if you could both give your own definition of the word liberty?” he said.
Knowles gave his answer first, taking a more philosophical route and discussing the purpose behind education to teach people how to find freedom.
“The point of education is to make us free. And when you are free, you are not being coerced,” Knowles said.
However, Cruz took a different approach.
“Liberty is the right to make your own choices and to make your own mistakes. The right to, as John Locke put it, to life liberty and property,” Cruz said.
After almost an hour and a half, “Verdict” ended with Cruz saying, “It’s one of the purposes of their podcast that we try to engage in substance on issues.”
Although there were rumors circulating of a protest or possible walk out of the event, neither occurred.
“The feedback we’ve received was very positive, from all sides of the political spectrum. Students that disagreed with the speakers had a chance to ask questions, and directly speak to them following the show,” Fee said. “Bringing major speakers to campus causes dialogue on critical issues and gives us as Catholic University students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Gabby Dankanich, Vice-Chair for YAF and junior politics major agreed.
“Our student body here at Catholic University has proven to consistently be thoughtful, inquisitive, and respectful. All of these traits were represented throughout the live recording,” Dankanich said.
During the interview with The Tower, Cruz and Knowles both agreed that the questions and atmosphere at the event were very unique to Catholic University.
“I feel vindicated coming to Catholic University because the questions are so deep, and it’s clear that the students didn’t just want red meat or cheap applause lines, they wanted to really engage in substantial issues. The only takeaway I have is we need to stop going to Catholic schools because these students are going to stump me with these questions,” Knowles said.
Cruz agreed, commenting that his favorite question and exchange from the event was on the nature of liberty.
“Look, that’s as fundamental of a question as there is,” Cruz said. “And I do think we began a discussion with some real substance and some meat to it.”
Knowles also told The Tower after the event about the power he sees in the conservative movement finding unity.
“This is something YAF has always done very well, but it’s something that has really animated the conservative movement which is bringing together enough movements to accomplish something and win elections,” Knowles said. “The only way that conservatives are going to win anything is if we somehow are able to reconcile all of these movements and ideas.”