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Students flock to Ron Paul

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum on Friday. Paul, a Pittsburgh native, is known for his libertarian economic policies. (credit: Benjamin Madueme/Junior Photographer) Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum on Friday. Paul, a Pittsburgh native, is known for his libertarian economic policies. (credit: Benjamin Madueme/Junior Photographer)

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul stopped by his home town of Pittsburgh last Friday to speak as part of his presidential campaign trail. About 2,300 people attended his speech at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum. His message, which emphasized the importance of an isolationist foreign policy and the dangers of an overreaching government, drew enthusiastic applause from his audience.

“Dr. Paul’s message of liberty has been resonating strongly among young people all over the country,” said Christina Garmon, a master’s student studying French horn performance and the leader of the Carnegie Mellon Youth for Ron Paul chapter. “With Pittsburgh having such a large student population, it is a great location for him to speak.”

The crowd was mostly composed of the students and young adults who have come to form a large demographic of Paul’s supporters. They broke into applause and chants of “President Paul” as he made his entrance.

“If the election was limited to those between the ages of 18 and 30, I might well win this election hands down,” Paul said.

Paul started his speech with a commentary on the Federal Reserve, the central banking system of the U.S. The Federal Reserve’s leverage over the economic policies of the public and private sectors has come into question by Paul, especially in light of the recent recession. Paul’s critical comments incited the crowd into a deafening roar of “End the Fed!” to which, after it had died down, he replied, “That sounds like a very good idea.”

“For the first time in history, the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve is one of the big issues of the campaign,” Paul said. “I propose next year, after the election, we pass a bill that repeals the Federal Reserve Act.” This exclamation also drew a loud applause.

Paul then shifted his focus to the global war on terrorism. He said that it has been one of the most “overbearing” wars the U.S. has ever fought. Paul compared the War on Terror to World War II, claiming that the length of time U.S. soldiers were exposed to immediate danger then was very short compared to the war today. He also expressed a concern for the thousands of soldiers coming back from overseas with injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder — a concern that may have stemmed from his medical background as a doctor.

“If we care about our active duty people,” Paul said, “if we care about our national defense, [and] if we care about our veterans, we [should] change our foreign policy, defend this country, and not be the policeman of the world.”

Paul also detailed his stances on a variety of other national issues. He said that the defeated Stop Online Piracy Act and the proposed Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act are too controlling, while the 2001 Patriot Act “penalized American citizens.” He also pointed to the prejudices that drug laws have toward minorities, and even suggested that we “get rid of all the drug laws.” He also highlighted the benefits of using gold as acceptable legal tender.

Paul ended his speech on an idealistic note. “The purpose for liberty ... is to pursue virtue and excellence,” he said. “The philosophy of freedom is the only way to achieve not only peace, but prosperity as well.”

Chris Hsu, a sophomore computer science major, enjoyed the message Paul had to offer, even if it wasn’t entirely new to him. Hsu said that he has been a Paul supporter since last summer.

In fact, Hsu is such a huge fan that he paid $250 to have lunch with Paul and his wife, Carol Paul, along with about 80 other supporters, before the speech.

“It was really surreal,” Hsu said of the luncheon. “It was really weird seeing this visionary person right in front of you.... When he shook [my] hand, it was really firm. He was really friendly.”

Hsu said that one factor that drew him to Paul was his consistent message about liberty.

“It was sort of a realization of what kind of values are actually important for government to hold,” Hsu said. “When I started reading up on Ron Paul, at first I was kind of a skeptic.... What I realized was how solid he was in his statements. He has been saying the same things over and over again. He has not changed in his positions.”

Not everyone who went to the rally had much prior knowledge about the candidate.

“I came here without really knowing his views on a lot of things, but I was impressed by what he had to say,” said Jon Hewson, a sophomore business and finance major at the University of Pittsburgh. “I like a lot of the stuff he had to say about the Fed.... I like the idea of ending the Fed, and I think that will support America as a whole. That is personally what hit me the most.”

Amanda Sassa, a sophomore Spanish major at Pitt, agreed. “I liked what he had to say on liberty, and how there should be less government intervention,” she said. “I also like what he had to say about not censoring the internet.”

“I think if a lot of people listen to what he has to say, a lot of people would change their minds,” Hewson added. “He’s a cool cat.”