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February 18, 2013

By Daniel Diner ’14

Weekend Amherst snowstorms usually draw thoughts of fires and lazy afternoons, not formal attire and certainly not anything that involves students leaving their dorms. But contrary to these conventions, Johnson Chapel found itself teeming with a smartly dressed and enthusiastic crowd on Sunday, Feb. 10. The crowd was composed largely of Amherst students who braved the aftereffects of the February snowstorm to witness, among other events, a speech of former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

Brown—along with former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin, armless “toe-picking” guitarist Tony Melendez, and conservative producer and activist Bill Whittle—was commissioned to speak by the Amherst College Republicans, in an event to mark the group’s revival. The event, appropriately named “The Resurgence,” was originally scheduled for Saturday but had to be moved and restructured because of the weather. On Sunday, it featured Brown and Melendez only. 

Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown addresses Johnson Chapel

Senator Brown focused largely on his personal narrative, starting with a difficult and abusive childhood that culminated in his being arrested for shoplifting a record. Curiously, Brown described the incident as being rehabilitating rather than punitive, as the judge was kind but firm. He eventually won a basketball scholarship to Tufts and subsequently attended law school at Boston College.

When describing his professional and political life, Brown referred to himself as having a “Type A” personality, keen to take on challenges as they presented themselves. He said his motivations for getting into politics hinged largely on problems and inefficiencies he thought he could correct in the system, and he called for young leaders in the audience to follow his example. He told the crowd, “One of the reasons I wanted to come here and speak [was to] challenge you and see what you would be doing.”

Sunday’s event, along with the return of the Amherst College Republicans, owes much to the work of Robert Lucido ’15. In October, Lucido attended a viewing of the second presidential debate in Converse’s Red Room and found absolute himself the “the lone conservative voice” in the room. He says that the "resurgence" of the Amherst College Republicans was initiated on that same day, when the event’s moderator, William H. Hastie ’25 Professor of Political Science Thomas Dumm, approached him after the viewing and said the college needed a Republican student group.

As membership grew, Lucido planned the February event. “I wanted to organize an event that would not only mark our official return to campus,” he says, “but that would also create a venue to promote a greater level of political diversity on our campus.” For months he worked to organize, promote and raise money for the event. He tapped the college's alumni network and wrote to many politicians, commentators and entertainers, including former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Brown.

After settling on the four speakers, Lucido had to raise roughly $25,000 for their combined fees. He met his fundraising goals through a combination of private donations and grants from the Association of Amherst Students, the political science department and the student activities’ office.

Future plans for the College Republicans include rescheduled events featuring Rosario Marin and Bill Whittle, as well as a debate with the College Democrats about gun control.

More information about the Amherst College Republicans may be found at www.amherstcollegerepublicans.com.