Over 200 students rallied around the Campanile Tuesday, August 31 for the Back-to-School Barbeque Kick-off hosted by Georgia Tech Campus Republicans (GTCR). The event featured speeches by US Senator Johnny Isakson and Georgia Legislature House Representative for District 106 Melvin Everson.
The goal of the event was to attract new members to GTCR as well as get conservative students excited to be involved politically in the upcoming year. Isakson and Everson were invited as speakers with the hope of increasing the number of students attending.
“Having Melvin speak and having Johnny speak really gets people fired up about what we do as a club…and they are just such influential people that really command an audience,” said Kristen Greig, GTRC Chairman and third-year IAML major.
Isakson spoke first after a brief prayer to bless the food and the GTRC endeavors in the upcoming year and welcome given by Greig. Isakson first praised student attendance at the rally and stressed the importance for individual participation in politics.
“Politics is not a spectator sport…and you here have taken a step in the right direction,” Isakson said.
The rest of Isakson’s speech focused on the issues that the Republican party faces in the upcoming year, specifically tax reform for individuals and businesses and dealing with the economic crisis.
“What you don’t do when business is stifled is tax them further… We must empower the private sector in this economic crisis,” Isakson said.
Isakson stressed the importance of reforms that would cut taxes across the board and the importance of cutting spending while criticizing the current administration’s lack of foresight in the employment of the stimulus package. During the question and answer portion after Isakson’s speech, Tech students raised issues of immigration and border control, the growing national deficit and foreign policy. Isakson took stances supporting stricter policies on border control and finding a solution to national debt.
He also touched briefly on his opinion on the nuclear threat of Iran from his experience on the foreign relations committee.
Everson followed Isakson with a speech more focused on the importance of increasing the influence of conservative Republicans in the government and defeating Democrats in the upcoming elections. He echoed Isakson’s sentiments about tax reform but went on to say taxes were not the only failure of Democrats currently.
“Our nation is headed in the wrong direction because of who is in the White House… We need conservative leadership in Washington to turn this country around,” Everson said.
The kick-off concluded with brief campaign speeches from other candidates for various state and federal offices running on the Republican ticket. Students were encouraged to get involved in at least one campaign represented.
Isakson was the reason several students attended the rally.
“I don’t consider myself to be strongly right-leaning, but I wanted to hear Isakson speak… [He] is a great person to listen to talk- really well-spoken, and what he says makes an impact,” said Angie Keilhauer, second-year INTA major.
“I have always wanted to hear Isakson speak, so it was great to have an opportunity to see him on campus. He really impressed me, especially during the question and answer part. Nothing fazed him,” said Kyle Smith, first-year AE major.
Still, other students were impressed with Melvin.
“People responded really well to Melvin… He brings so much vibrancy to the party, and [is] a good conservative candidate… I knew he would be a good fireball for the meeting,” Greig said.
The high turnout at the rally exceeded expectations for GTCR.