By Emily Gold Boutilier
A year and a half ago the Amherst College Republicans didn’t even exist. Then one student made it his business to renew the organization.
The results were impressive: Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown spoke at an event to mark the student group’s revival. Membership grew to about 40.
Now the organization is about to host its biggest name yet.
Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999 and candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, will deliver a talk in the college’s Johnson Chapel on Wed., Dec. 11, at 8 p.m. Gingrich's lecture is free and open to the public. Doors open at 7:30.
Gingrich is expected to draw upon his career and historical knowledge to address such topics as the Affordable Care Act and the future of the Republican Party. He and his wife, Callista, will sign books at the conclusion of the talk.
That the Amherst College Republicans is alive today is largely due to the efforts of one tenacious student, Robert Lucido ’15. As he explains, the organization was active a decade ago, but membership dropped off and the group became dormant. In 2012, Lucido found himself “the lone conservative voice” in the room during an on-campus viewing of a presidential debate.
It was a liberal faculty member--Thomas Dumm--who gave Lucido the push. "It is often difficult to speak up when you are not endorsing what others consider to be common knowledge," says Dumm, the William H. Hastie '25 Professor of Political Science. "Robert lamented there not being any organization for student conservatives, and I suggested he might want to take the initiative to restart the dormant Young Republicans. As many know, I myself am deeply opposed to many of the policies, and in general the destructive attitudes of so many prominent members of the current GOP. That said, there should be lively discussion on our campus, and without voices from the right to serve as a foil to our more dominant, and sometimes thoughtless because unchallenged, progressive students, that discussion won't happen."
Last winter Lucido led efforts to organize, promote and raise money for an initiative titled “The Resurgence,” which, in addition to Brown, brought former U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin and armless “toe-picking” guitarist Tony Melendez to campus.
Robert Lucido '15 with former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown during Brown's visit to campus last winter
This fall Lucido sought assistance from the conservative Young America’s Foundation. That group helped to book the Gingrich lecture and subsidize the speaker’s fee. Other funding came from President Biddy Martin’s office and the Amherst Association of Students, as well as from outside donors and Republican groups at UMass and Smith, which are cosponsors of the talk.
Wednesday’s lecture features a contest, too: Submit a question for Gingrich via email (email@example.com). The Amherst College Republicans will choose one winning question, whose author will meet Gingrich before the talk and ask his or her question from a front-row seat during a question-and-answer period.