Grove City College welcomed former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to campus Thursday for the 15th annual Ronald Reagan Lecture.
Gingrich spoke about his life in politics, from making the case for a zoo to city officials when he was just 11 to leading the “Republican revolution” in 1994 that ended forty years of Democratic control of the U.S. House of Representatives to his hopeful vision of the future.
The Ronald Reagan lecture features prominent guests with a connection to the nation’s 40th president. Gingrich, who was a Congressman from Georgia during Reagan’s presidency, said when he first met Reagan in 1974 the “Great Communicator” shared his approach to speechmaking.
Reagan, Gingrich said, had a stack of 72 note cards with different subjects. He would evaluate his audience, select about 20 cards, and shuffle them before taking the stage. The random ordering kept the speeches fresh, and the adrenaline rush would create an excitement in Reagan that transferred to the audience. Nearly 50 years and thousands of speeches later, Gingrich said he still uses a version of that technique.
That wasn’t necessary for the Reagan Lecture as Gingrich engaged in a conversation from the stage of Crawford Hall auditorium with College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 and Dr. Paul G. Kengor, professor of Political Science and executive director and chief academic fellow of the Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College.
Widely recognized as a visionary political thinker and actor, Gingrich started out as an academic but said he decided early on a career in politics. He majored in history as a “vocational subject” and told one of his professors. “I’m in the business of making history, so I figured I ought to study it.”
“Hard work and drive” pushed him to run for Congress and persevere despite losing twice before finally winning a seat in 1978 and beginning a 16-year effort to craft a Republican majority in Congress. That mindset continued as he served as Speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999 and worked with President Bill Clinton to enact longtime goals like welfare reform and three balanced budgets.
Gingrich covered a variety of topics during the lecture and fielded audience questions, including one about his view of America’s future in a time that many are fearful and unsettled. “I’m totally optimistic. This is the freest country in the history of the world,” he said. “Free people beat bureaucrats. Entrepreneurs beat socialists. I think your children and grandchildren will have an amazing future.”
The Ronald Reagan Lecture is sponsored by Grove City College and hosted by The Institute for Faith & Freedom.