By: Melissa Boyd (Whetstone Staff Writer)

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, came to Wesley April 11 to talk about social security and answered questions about his unlikely candidacy for the Republican nomination to the presidency.

Gingrich shook hands and met professors and students at a private reception at 6 p.m. in the Carroll Room in Carpenter Hall, where about 30 people came, including political science majors, professors, and college administration.

An hour later, the candidate gave a speech on social security and retirement to a crowd of about 150 students and faculty.

Gingrich said he was happy to be at Wesley.

“I can’t imagine a better place than a liberal arts college to speak at,” he said. “I am very thrilled to be here.”

Republican Delaware Senator Colin Bonini, who facilitated Gingrich’s coming to Wesley, is an alumnus of Wesley, class of 1991.

“I am very excited he’s spending so much time in Delaware,” Bonini said. “He is a public intellectual and he brings solutions and ideas that others don’t, like reforming social security and saving energy in America.”

In previous interviews, Gingrich has said he is “in it until Tampa Bay,” where the Republican National Convention will be held Aug 27-30 this year.

“There are big solutions we need in order to create a better America and we need a Reagan solution,” he said. “The longer I can stay and advocate for them, the better. Tax cuts and job creation needs to happen.”

Several students said Gingrich’s appearance here was important.

“I think it’s important to understand Newt Gingrich’s platform,” said senior Taylor Mushrush. “I’m interested in foreign affairs and politics, so it’s a good opportunity for me. I’m not 100 percent knowing of his campaign, so that’s why I came.”

Junior Michael Streeter also said he wanted to know a little more about Gingrich’s campaign, including his immigration policies, what he plans to do for a student entering or graduating from college, and in the healthcare program for senior citizens.

“I just need to know more,” he said. “I definitely wanted to get an up-close view of Newt Gingrich and see what he’s like in a casual, social setting.”

Streeter said that he has kept up with the current political campaigns, and he thought Gingrich needed to focus more on the lower and middle classes.

“He needs to realize what’s lacking in America, and to create a public policy that’s more diverse,” he said.

SGA President Tanner Polce was also present and thought it was a good opportunity to attend.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for the Wesley community to be exposed to a political figure,” Polce said. “It’s interesting to see someone so iconic, and see the Speaker of the House leave his individual mark.”

Polce said he was not a supporter of Gingrich, but he said he respects Gingrich.

“I have worked with two Democratic senators in Delaware,” he said. “Although Newt and I do not share the same political ideologies, I have to respect him for his service to the nation.”

Math professor Derald Wentzien also attended.

“I thought it was an opportunity to meet someone who was Speaker of the House,” he said. “You don’t usually get the opportunity to meet people like this.”

He said he has not kept up with the current political campaign, and that Gingrich’s appearance at Wesley will most likely not influence him one way or the other.

“I’m just appreciative that he was willing to come here,” Wentzien said.

Gingrich’s appearance occurred after Bonini contacted President William Johnston and said that Gingrich was looking for a location to hold a town meeting.

“I spoke with the Political Science department and they agreed that it would be a good opportunity for our students,” Johnston said.

Gingrich also addressed an issue important to Delaware, the “Race to the Top” program, which allows state schools to race to the top in terms of test scores through the standardized testing per state. The states that have the highest test scores receive additional funding. The program has cost $4.35 billion dollars so far, but is estimated to total $10 billion for reforms.

“The student, parent, and teacher need to be involved, not the government and the bureaucrat in between,” he said. “Race to the Top has become destructive. We’re teaching to the test.”