Diverse speakers needed at college

Published 8:34 pm Thursday, January 26, 2017



With Georgia Congressman John Lewis coming to LaGrange College as our MLK Day speaker, there have been more than a few misconceptions about the talk. I thought you might want the truth about what’s going here at LaGrange College


First of all, the event was not something required of all college students. It is a cultural enrichment event, and students need 40 to graduate. But we average several a week, and students attend an average of 10 a year. In other words, it’s not required.


Second of all, while there were a few alumni, parents, and students who were concerned about the talk, most have been supportive of us having Congressman Lewis speak. This doesn’t mean they agree or disagree with his clash with President Donald Trump. They want to hear an MLK speech by someone who knew him pretty well.


I saw a few Facebook posts insult LaGrange College alumni, calling our former students “racist” for having a few members oppose Lewis’ speech. I think that’s equally unproductive. First, most support our college decision. Second, our alumni members, conservative, moderate or liberal, who have disagreed with our college, are not racist simply for opposing the speech. If we invited former Rep. Dennis Kucinich and he made similar remarks, they would oppose him too.


Members of a campus fraternity invited me to watch Trump’s inauguration with them, which I did. During this time, a conservative graduate from the college from that same fraternity texted me his picture from the inauguration (one of several of our students who attended). The next day, he supported his wife (also an alum) who chose to march in Washington DC. We’re trying to educate students who will not only take a stand, but support the views of others.


Third, we have a pretty broad list of college speakers. Here are just the GOP speakers that I have brought to the college: Representative Lynn Westmoreland (on three occasions), Representative Drew Ferguson, State Senator Mike Crane, Congressional candidate Jim Pace, Secretary of State Karen Handel (twice), Dalton Mayor David Pennington, Nixon Administration official Ted Barrilleaux, Senator Johnny Isakson (via Skype), State Senator Josh McKoon, FBI Agent and GOP candidate Duke Blackburn, State Senate President Eric Johnson, State Representative Randy Nix, State Senator Mitch Seabaugh, State Representative Jeff Brown, Congressional Candidates John Konop and Tom Mills, State Senator Seth Harp, Congressman Bob Barr, Congressman Phil Gingrey (twice), State legislators Dan Lee and Bill Hamrick, Congressional Candidate Dylan Glenn and Presidential Candidate Herman Cain. I’ve taken students to meet Governor Nathan Deal on the square as well as a visit to the Chamber of Commerce to see Senator David Perdue (and Westmoreland twice). I’ve also taken students to the GOP gubernatorial debate, hosted a Tea party speaker, and took a class over to the Donald Trump HQ to meet Helen Rice and see the bus.


Here are the Democrats I have brought to campus: former Governor Roy Barnes, former Alabama Congressman Glen Browder, former Congressman Buddy Darden, Congressional candidates Steven Camp and Mike McGraw, US Senate candidates Michelle Nunn and Vernon Jones, State Senate candidate Brian Roslund, and Governor candidate Carl Camon, and State Representative Bob Trammell. We also went to the square to see Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter.


That’s almost a 4:1 ratio of Republicans to Democrats. Of course, we have more Republicans here than Democrats. I’ve invited some Democrats who did not get back to me about a visit.


When I bring in a speaker, conservative, moderate or liberal, I do it because the person has experience that I don’t have, and they can teach something to my students that I can talk about in theory, but not always in practice. They may share my views, or they may differ from me (more liberal or more conservative). But college students need to hear different voices. And that’s something I think the readers of this column will definitely agree with.


John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College.  He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.