Former congressman tells students to challenge their viewpoints in college

Artur Davis, a former Alabama congressman, spoke at Syracuse University’s Watson Theater Tuesday, Oct. 2.

There are few periods of life quite like the four years spent in college.

And it’s a time that needs to be spent challenging your viewpoints, Artur Davis, a former Alabama congressman, said Tuesday while speaking in Syracuse University’s Watson Theater.

“This is that one little stretch in your life when you are allowed the freedom to think about and to entertain different philosophies and different ways to look at the world,” Davis said. “This is the one space in your life where you get to regularly interact with people who don’t think like you do.”

Davis, who served in the House of Representatives from 2003-11, spoke at a College Republicans-sponsored event. He admonished a crowd of about 100 people to stretch their ideologies and viewpoints — no matter how developed they feel those ideologies may be.

“I like to be able to say to people, ‘Develop your viewpoint,’” Davis said. “It is not just enough to say on which side of the line you lie.”

Speaking to a crowd of primarily Republican voters and supporters, Davis targeted the virtues of liberty, opportunity, prosperity and a civil society as core to the conservative platform in all eras.

“I would submit that when conservatism has been its most effective ... it has consistently taught about all four of those values,” he said. “Freedom, but also opportunity, prosperity and a civil society.”

Davis, the co-national chair of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, switched his party affiliation in 2012 after a failed bid for the Alabama governor’s seat in 2010.

After delivering a nominating speech for Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Davis turned around and delivered a headline address at the 2012 Republican National Convention in strong support of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

That movement across parties gives Davis a unique vantage point for critiquing both ideologies, said James Ward, president of the College Republicans.

“He’s a unique person, because he came from one side and is now on the other, so he sees the positives and negatives on both sides,” Ward, a mechanical engineering junior, said. “He is an ex-congressman, so he’s trying to represent the people and represent an ideology that makes for a better civil society.”

Challenging one’s viewpoint was a crucial portion of Davis’ lecture for many in attendance.

“It takes a lot for someone to have an ideology and then question it every day,” Ward said. “I think what he was trying to say is that not enough people do that; they’re too partisan in what they believe in, and they aren’t willing to question [it].”

Davis stressed that Republicans should no longer be referred to as the “party of no,” but said they bring new ideas and a fresh viewpoint to many policies.

“I really liked his appeal to a more proactive conservatism,” said Giovanni Malloy, 17, a senior at Jamesville-Dewitt High School. “He had a valid point that we need to show American policies that are meant to lead us to a future that is better for our country.”

Appealing to Americans of all political ideologies may be key in this year’s election, said Malloy’s classmate, Zach Shapiro, who came to the speech with the school’s Young Republicans Club.

“He talked about appealing to the average American, and that the Republicans can do things that support any American,” Shapiro, 17, said.

Darcy Joyce, an Earth sciences and English and textual studies senior, appreciated that need for internal questioning of one’s ideals.

“I think that’s a really valid argument,” said Joyce, vice president of the College Republicans. “A lot of people will vote for their guy, no matter what, and I think that’s what has gotten them into trouble in the first place.”

Davis’ presentation helped show the diversity of the GOP party, Joyce said.

“It’s a diverse group, ideologically for sure, but also ethnically,” she said. “It’s not the agrarian, rich, white old man that it used to be in the 1950s. The party has changed a lot.”


Photo via Youth Radio/flickr

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