Students and Faculty Reflect on Gingrich’s 2009 Visit

As a self-described historian, Newt Gingrich has always been the sort of person that does research be­fore coming to an important con­clusion. Some of that research may have been done previously during his visit to Colgate in 2009.

“[Newt] was making strategic decisions about seeing different parts of the country…there were a couple of local Republican con­nections he was visiting like Dennis Vacco, the former Attorney General of New York. He was clearly testing the waters for a presidential run,” Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization Robert Kraynak said, who helped bring Gingrich to Colgate.

Gingrich came to Colgate on March 26, 2009 as part of an event sponsored by the Center for Freedom and Western Civiliza­tion and the College Republicans. His lecture, entitled “President Obama and the Future of Ameri­can Freedom,” set him in direct opposition with President Obama and his policies: a stance that he has maintained in his many months on the campaign trail.


His tone was acerbic at times, touching on controversial topics in question-and-answer discussions such as abortion, gay marriage and questions of religion. Some students came away from the lec­ture feeling “shocked” as reported in the April 2, 2009 issue of The Colgate Maroon-News.

“Some people certainly walked out shaking their heads. He always speaks in a provoca­tive style. He thrives on con­frontation – people come to hear him because they know he’s confrontational,” Kraynak said. “The thing that was most striking to me when I met him was how much he resembled a professor as opposed to a politi­cian. It was like you walked into a seminar.”

Kraynak did find one noticeable difference between Newt Gingrich in 2009 and his presidential campaign.

“I think he’s aware of the fact that he needs to be a more disci­plined person on the campaign trail,” Kraynak said. “It’s a study in contrast between the careful Romney and [Gingrich’s]

“I think we’re at a very big crossroads between a govern­ment-dominated country and a country where the center of power and opportunity lies with the people. And I think the Obama administration and its left wing allies in Congress have moved very aggressively to cre­ate a big government model with higher taxes, more bureaucracy, more power and control to the politicians,” Gingrich said as he summarized his speech.

“In retrospect, it seems like a campaign speech, but at the time it really didn’t,” recent graduate Max Weiss ’11 said. “I can also say that in 2012 he is very similar to 2009.”

Gingrich drew upon the tradi­tional Republican positions that he fought for as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, as well as a less orthodox, Tea Party-style approach.

“Newt was angry not just with the government and peo­ple who bought homes they couldn’t afford, but also Wall Street. He didn’t like that AIG executives were able to take bonuses,” Weiss said. “We’ve seen this narrative reemerge in his criticisms of Romney with Bain [Capital].”

Contact Nate Lynch at [email protected]