U.S. Senator Rand Paul expressed concern for the current state of the Republican Party and the individual freedoms of the American people in a brief public address at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics on Friday.
The forum was the last to be moderated by outgoing IOP Director C. M. Trey Grayson '94, who announced his resignation earlier this month.
Speaking for ten minutes to a room that had reached full-capacity, Paul—who is considered a contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination—described his political views as “libertarian-ish” and called for serious reconsideration of the policies set forth by the previous two U.S. presidents.
Paul, who is embarking on a Northeast tour that includes a stop in Maine to speak at the state’s Republican convention, questioned the constitutionality of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which allows terrorism suspects to be detained indefinitely on U.S. soil, and the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, which was renewed by President Barack Obama in 2011 and allows for roving wiretaps and surveillance of suspected terrorists.
Paul said that he believes that in recent years Americans have begun to sacrifice their liberty for national security.
“I hope you join with me saying enough is enough,” Paul said. “We need to get our Constitution back.”
Before the event began, IOP president Eva A. Guidarini ’15 announced that the forum would be Grayson’s last, prompting a standing ovation as he entered the room.
Though Grayson lost a Republican primary race for a seat in the U.S. Senate to Paul in 2010, the two have remained friends since, according to Grayson. During the forum, Grayson said that his loss in Kentucky was, in a sense, a win because it led him to his current position.
In an interview before the forum, Grayson said that bringing Paul to speak at the IOP had been one of his goals ever since becoming the director three years ago.
“It’s special to me to have my old rival, but, more importantly, my fellow Kentuckian, be the last person of the forum I introduce before heading back to Kentucky,” Grayson said.
After his address, Paul answered questions from the audience for 40 minutes on topics ranging from tax cuts to abortion laws.
Although he avoided any explicit mention of his 2016 presidential prospects, he made several comments on controversial policies like the Affordable Care Act, which he said he would change if given the opportunity.
“President Obama says that you are not smart enough. You are not smart enough to choose your own insurance,” Paul said, adding that medical coverage should be a personal decision.
Referring to the future of conservatism in the U.S., Paul, who is also the son of three-time presidential candidate and former U.S. representative Ron Paul, told the audience that “the Republican Party will adapt, evolve, or die.” He also called for a diversification of registered Republican voters if the party is to succeed in future elections.
“If you go to a Republican event, it’s all white people—not because we’re excluding anybody. We just haven’t done a good enough job encouraging people to come into our party,” Paul said.
—Staff writer Forrest K. Lewis can be reached at email@example.com.