President Trump’s Commencement Speech at Liberty University

I’ll admit it – Donald Trump was not the guy I wanted to see win the Republican nomination for President.  But he did, he won election, and he is now my President.

His commencement speech at Liberty University yesterday impressed me.  One reason is the fact that he spoke deeply, broadly, and powerfully about faith in a way I don’t recall ever seeing a President speak before.


Thank you very much. everybody. And congratulations to the class of 2017. That’s some achievement.

This is your day and you’ve earned every minute of it. And I’m thrilled to be back at Liberty University, I’ve been here, this is now my third time, and we love setting records, right. We always set records. We have to set records, we have no choice.

It’s been a little over a year since I’ve spoken on your beautiful campus and so much has changed. Right here, the class of 2017 dressed in cap and gown, graduating to a totally brilliant future. And here I am standing before you as President of the United States, so I’m guessing — there are some people here today who thought that either one of those things, either one, would really require major help from God. Do we agree? And we got it.

But here we are celebrating together on this very joyous occasion, and there is no place in the world I’d rather be to give my first commencement address as President than here with my wonderful friends at Liberty University. And I accepted this invitation a long time ago. I said to Jerry that I’d be there, and when I say something I mean it.

I want to thank President Jerry Falwell and his incredible wife, Becky, stand up, Becky, for their kind words, their steadfast support, and their really wonderful friendship. Let me also extend our appreciation to the entire Falwell family, Trey, Sarah, Wesley, Laura, and Caroline, thank you for everything you do to make this university so exceptional, one of the truly great, great schools.

Most importantly to our new graduates: Each of you should take immense pride in what you have achieved. There’s another group of amazing people we want to celebrate today and they are the ones who have made this journey possible for you, and you know who that is? Nobody, you forgot already. You’re going to go out, you’re going to do whatever you’re going to do, some are going to make a lot of money, some are going to be even happier doing other things — they’re your parents and your grandparents, don’t forget them. You haven’t forgotten yet, have you? Never, ever forget them, they’re great.

And especially this weekend, let’s make sure we give a really extra special thanks to the moms. Don’t forget our moms, because graduates, today is your day. Today is your day. But in all of this excitement don’t forget that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, right? I had a great mother, she’s looking down, now but I had a great mother. I always loved Mother’s Day.

We’re also deeply honored to be joined by some of the nearly 6000 service members, military veterans and military spouses who are receiving their diplomas today. Will you please stand. Please stand. Wow. That’s great. Thank you very much, great job. We’re profoundly grateful to every single one of you who sacrificed to keep us safe and protect God’s precious gift of freedom. It is truly a testament to this university and to the values that you embrace that your graduating class includes so many patriots who have served our country in uniform. Thank you very much.

To the class of 2017: Today you end one chapter but you are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life. Just think for a moment of how blessed you are to be here today at this great, great university, living in this amazing country, surrounded by people who you love and care about so much. Then ask yourself, with all of those blessings, and all of the blessings that you’ve been given, what will you give back to this country and, indeed, to the world? What imprint will you leave in the sands of history? What will future Americans say we did in our brief time right here on Earth? Did we take risks? Did we dare to defy expectations? Did we challenge accepted wisdom and take on established systems? I think I did, but we all did and we’re all doing it.

Or did we just go along with convention, swim downstream, so easily with the current and just give in because it was the easy way, it was the traditional way or it was the accepted way? Remember this, nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy. Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is right — and they know what is right, but they don’t have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it. It’s called the road less traveled.

I know that each of you will be a warrior for the truth, will be a warrior for our country, and for your family. I know that each of you will do what is right, not what is the easy way, and that you will be true to yourself, and your country, and your beliefs. In my short time in Washington I’ve seen firsthand how the system is broken. A small group of failed voices who think they know everything and understand everyone want to tell everybody else how to live and what to do and how to think. But you aren’t going to let other people tell you what you believe, especially when you know that you’re right. And those of you graduating here today, who have given half a million hours of charity last year alone, unbelievable amount of work and charity and few universities or colleges can claim anything even close, we don’t need a lecture from Washington on how to lead our lives. I’m standing here looking at the next generation of American leaders. There may very well be a president or two in our midst. Anybody think they’re going to be president, raise your hand.

In your hearts are inscribed the values of service, sacrifice and devotion. Now you must go forth into the world and turn your hopes and dreams into action. America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers. When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth they prayed. When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our creator four times, because in America we don’t worship government we worship God. That is why our elected officials put their hands on the Bible and say, ‘So help me God,’ as they take the oath of office. It is why our currency proudly declares, ‘In God we trust,’ and it’s why we proudly proclaim that we are one nation under God every time we say the pledge of allegiance.

The story of America is the story of an adventure that began with deep faith, big dreams and humble beginnings. That is also the story of Liberty University. When I think about the visionary founder of this great institution, Reverend Jerry Falwell Sr., I can only imagine how excited he would be if he could see all of this and all of you today, and how proud he would be of his son and of his family.

In just two days we will mark the 10th anniversary of Reverend Falwell’s passing, and I used to love watching him on television, hearing him preach, he was a very special man. He would be so proud not just at what you’ve achieved but of the young men and women of character that you’ve all become. And Jerry, I know your dad is looking down on you right now and he is proud, he is very proud, so congratulations on a great job Jerry. Reverend Falwell’s life is a testament to the power of faith to change the world. The inspiring legacy that we see all around us in this great stadium — this is a beautiful stadium and it is packed. I’m so happy about that. I said, ‘How are you going to fill up a place like that?’ It is packed, Jerry.

In this beautiful campus and in your smiling faces but it all began with a vision. That vision was of a world class university for evangelical Christians. And I want to thank you, because boy did you come out and vote, those of you that are old enough, in other words your parents. Boy oh boy, you voted, you voted.

No doubt many people told him his vision was impossible, and I am sure they continued to say that so long after he started, at the beginning with just 154 students, but the fact is no one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done. Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they’re people that can’t get the job done. But the future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics. the future belongs to the people who follow their heart no matter what the critics say because they truly believe in their vision.

At Liberty your leaders knew from the very beginning that a strong athletic program would help this campus grow so that this school might transform more lives. That is why a crucial part of Reverend Falwell’s vision for making Liberty a world-class institution was having a world-class football team much like the great teams of Notre Dame, great school, great place, in fact, Vice President Mike Pence is there today doing a fabulous job as he always does.

A few years ago, the New York Times even wrote a story on the great ambitions of the Liberty Flames. That story prompted a longtime president of another school to write a letter to Jerry. It’s a letter that Reverend Falwell would have been very, very pleased to read. Jerry tells me that letter now hangs in the wall in the boardroom of your great university. It came from the late Father Theodore Hesper, who was the beloved president of the university of Notre Dame 35 years ago. Like this school’s founder, he was a truly kindhearted man of very, very deep faith. In the letter, Father Hesper recalled that Notre Dame’s own meteoric rise from a small Midwestern school to a national football powerhouse. And then he wrote something so amazing and generous. He wrote, ‘I think you are on that same trajectory now and I want to wish you all the best and encourage you from the starting and from being able to start very small and arriving in the big time.’

Thanks to hard work, great faith, and incredible devotion those dreams have come true. As of February of this year, the Liberty Flames are playing in the FBS, the highest level of competition in NCAA football. Don’t, don’t clap, that could be tough. Don’t clap. That could be tough. I’m a little worried. I don’t want to look at some of those scores here. Jerry, you sure you know what you’re doing here? Those other players are big and fast and strong but I have a feeling you’re going to do very well, right?

From the most humble roots you’ve become a powerhouse in both education and sports. And just wait until the world hears the football teams you’ll be playing on your schedule starting next season. President Falwell gave me a list of some of those schools, the ones you’re going to be playing 2018. Would you like me to read the names? Just came out, would you like to hear them? I’m a little bit concerned. UMass, Virginia, Auburn — Jerry, are you sure you know what you’re doing? Jerry, Auburn? I don’t know about that James. This could be trouble, Jerry. Rutgers, Old Dominion, Brigham Young, Army — I might be at that game, who am I supposed to root for? Tell me. I don’t know. That’s a tough one, Jerry. I don’t know, Jerry, I’m going to have to think about that one, Jerry. Buffalo, Troy, Virginia Tech, oh no, Jerry, Ole Miss and wake forest, those are really top schools. maybe in four or five years I’ll come to a game, right, you’ll build it up. Well good luck.

The success of your athletic program arriving on the big stage should be a reminder to every new graduate of just what you can achieve when you start small, pursue a big vision and never, ever quit. You never quit. If I give you one message to hold in your hearts today, it’s this. Never, ever give up. There will be times in your life you’ll want to quit, you’ll want to go home, you’ll want to go home perhaps to that wonderful mother that’s sitting back there watching you and say, ‘Mom, I can’t do it. I can’t do it.’ Just never quit. Go back home and tell mom, dad, I can do it, I can do it. I will do it, you’re going to be successful. I’ve seen so many brilliant people, they gave up in life, they were totally brilliant, they were top of their class, they were the best students, they were the best of everything, they gave up. I’ve seen others who really didn’t have that talent or that ability and they’re among the most successful people today in the world because they never quit and they never gave up. So just remember that. Never stop fighting for what you believe in and for the people who care about you.

Carry yourself with dignity and pride. Demand the best from yourself and be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures. Does that sound familiar by the way? The more people tell you it’s not possible, that it can’t be done, the more you should be absolutely determined to prove them wrong. Treat the word ‘impossible’ as nothing more than motivation. Relish the opportunity to be an outsider. Embrace that label — being an outsider is fine, embrace the label — because it’s the outsiders who change the world and who make a real and lasting difference. The more that a broken system tells you that you’re wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead, you must keep pushing forward.

And always have the courage to be yourself. Most importantly, you have to do what you love. You have to do what you love. I’ve seen so many people, they’re forced through lost of reasons, sometimes including family, to go down a path that they don’t want to go down, to go down a path that leads them to something that they don’t love, that they don’t enjoy. You have to do what you love, or you most likely won’t be very successful at it. So do what you love.

I want to recognize a friend who is here with us today, who can serve as an inspiration to us all. Someone who doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit’. Real champion. A true, true champion. Both on the field, off the field, he’s a Hall of Fame quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, really a good friend of mine, an amazing guy, Jim Kelly, where is Jim, he’s here some place. Where is Jim, stand up, Jim. What a great man. Jim Kelly, he was tough. Jim do you have any idea how much money you’d be making today? They’d hit Jim, it was like tackling a linebacker. They’d hit Jim, four guy, five guys that weighed 320, and he’d just keep going down the field. He was much more than a quarterback. He had tremendous heart and he knew how to win. Jim is tough, and his toughest fight of all was that he beat cancer not once but twice.

And I saw him and his incredible wife as they were in a very low moment, Jill, very, very low moment, and it was amazing the way they fought. It didn’t look good, I would have said, maybe, maybe it’s not going to happen. But there was always that hope because of Jim and Jim’s heart. But I want to just say it’s great to have you here today Jim and these people are big, big fans and if you can get a young version of Jim Kelly, you’ll be beating a lot of teams, Jerry.

So, interestingly, though, I said ‘I wonder what Jim’s doing here,’ his daughter Erin crosses the goal line to you and today with you so, Erin, stand up. Where are you, Erin? Where is Erin? Congratulations, Erin. Congratulations. Graduating from Liberty. Great choice, thank you.

Liberty University is a place where they really have true champions and you have a simple creed that you live by: To be, really, champions for Christ. Whether you’re called to be a missionary overseas, to shepherd a church or to be a leader in your community, you are living witness of the gospel message of faith, hope and love. And I must tell you I am so proud as your president to have helped you along over the past short period of time. I said I was going to do it, and Jerry, I did it. And a lot of people are very happy with what’s taken place, especially last week, we did some very important signings, right James? Very important signings.

America is better when people put their faith into action. As long as I am your president, no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what’s in your heart.

We will always stand up for the right of all Americans to pray to God and to follow his teachings. America is beginning a new chapter. Today each of you begins a new chapter as well. When your story goes from here, it will be defined by your vision, your perseverance and your grit. That’s a word Jim Kelly knows very well, your grit. In this, I’m reminded of another man you know very well and who has joined us here today. His name is George Rogers, Liberty University CFO and vice president for a quarter of a century. During World War II, George spent three-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war. He saw many of his fellow soldiers die during the Bataan death march. He was the victim of starvation and torture as a prisoner of war. When he was finally set free he weighed just 85 pounds and was told he would not live past the age of 40. Today George is 98 years old.

Great. That’s so great, George. If anyone ever had reason to quit, to give in to the bitterness and anger that we all face at some point, to lose hope in God’s vision for his life, it was indeed George Rogers. But that’s not what he did. He stood up for his country, he stood up for his community. He stood up for his family and he defended civilization against a tide of barbarity, the kind of barbarity we’re seeing today and we’ve been witnessing over the last number of years and I just want to tell you as your president, we are doing very, very well in countering it, so you just hang in there. Things are going along very, very well. You’ll be hearing a lot about it next week from our generals Things are going along very, very well.

Through it all, he kept his faith in God, even in the darkest depths of despair. Like so many others of his generation, George came home to a nation full of optimism and pride and began to live out the American dream. He started a family, he discovered God’s plan for him and pursued that vision with all his might, pouring his passion into a tiny college in a place called Lynchburg, Virginia. Did you ever hear of that? Lynchburg? We love, we love it. Do you like it? We like it, right? I flew over it a little while ago. It’s amazing, actually. What started as a dream with a few good friends he helped shepherd into the largest Christian university in the world. Just look at this amazing, soaring, growing campus and I’ve been watching it grow because I’ve been a friend of Liberty for a long time, now, Jerry. It’s been a long time.

Thanks in great part George’s financial stewardship hundreds of thousands of young hearts and souls have been enriched at Liberty and inspired by the spirit of God. George, we thank you, and we salute you, and you just stay healthy for a long time, George, thank you.

Now it falls on the shoulders of each of you here today to protect the freedom that patriots like George earned with their incredible sacrifice. Fortunately you have been equipped with the tools from your time right here on this campus to make the right decisions and to serve God, family and country. As you build good lives, you will also be rebuilding our nation. You’ll be leaders in your communities, stewards of great institutions and defenders of liberty and you will be great mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers, loving friends and loving family members. You will build a future where we have the courage to chase our dreams no matter what the cynics and the doubters have to say. You will have the confidence to speak the hopes in your hearts and to express the love that stirs your souls. And you will have the faith to replace a broken establishment with a government that serves and protects the people.

We must always remember that we share one home and one glorious destiny whether we are brown, black or white. We all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all salute the same great American flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. As long as you remember what you have learned here at Liberty, as long as you have pride in your beliefs, courage in your convictions and faith in your God, then you will not fail.

And as long as America remains true to its values, loyal to its citizens, and devoted to its creator, then our best days are yet to come, I can promise you that. This has been an exceptional morning. It’s been a great honor for me and I want to thank you, the students. I also want to thank you, the family, for getting them there ,and I want to thank and congratulate Liberty. May God bless the class of 2017. May god bless the United States of America. May God bless all of you here today. Thank you very much, thank you. Thank you.

Mark Meadow’s Weekly Update – AHCA and More

House Passes American Healthcare Act

As you probably know, last week the House passed a newly revised version of the American Healthcare Act (AHCA). The new version of the bill was supported by myself and my colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus.

From the very beginning of this process, I’ve stated that my goals were to 1) bring down premiums for Americans, and 2) protect those with pre-existing conditions. When the original version of this bill was released, I did not feel that either goal would be accomplished, and thus, I made it clear that I would not support the bill without substantial changes.

After weeks of negotiations, meetings, countless hours of discussion, and substantive changes to the bill, I’m thrilled to say that significant improvements were made. I believe we reached the point where both of these criteria will be met – premiums will go down, and people with pre-existing conditions will have a real, reliable safety net.

While there are a lot of individuals who deserve credit for this, I particularly want to recognize my friend, Congressman Tom MacArthur and Rep. Fred Upton, for his work in negotiating the closing details of the bill. He was a critical player in getting this done.

I also want to thank President Trump – I cannot tell you all how much I’ve seen this President work behind the scenes to bring this deal home. You have a President that is incredibly focused on keeping his campaign promises to you. This bill is a major step in that agenda and a major step toward repealing and replacing Obamacare.

This has been a long process, and there is still work to be done with my Senate colleagues on improving the bill – but last week’s vote is a vital step in bringing relief to so many Americans that are being crushed by the broken system of Obamacare. Today we are one step closer. Help is on the way.

To read my full statement, click here.

Speaking at the Rose Garden after the passage of the AHCA

Working with the Senate

As we move forward in the healthcare policy debate, keep in mind that the AHCA is still going through an extensive legislative process in the Senate. When the Senate makes changes, the bill will come back to the House where the two bodies will reach an agreement on a proposal. Right now I am actively working with my Senate colleagues on negotiations to ensure that we get the best outcome possible for the American people.

You can read about those conversations here. I will keep working with them until we reach a solution that finishes the job.

Standing with President Trump at the Rose Garden (photo from Reuters)

Pre-existing Condition Protections

As you’ve probably heard me say many times by now, protecting people with pre-existing conditions was one of my chief concerns throughout the entire healthcare debate. In fact, the issue of pre-existing conditions was among the reasons I opposed the original version of the AHCA—despite pressure from even those in my own party.

While the bill is not perfect, I believe that after weeks of negotiations and substantive changes from the original version, the AHCA now strikes a positive balance between eliminating burdensome regulations, giving States options, and not leaving people with pre-existing conditions vulnerable. It would go a long way in accomplishing our goals of bringing premiums down and providing a better, more reliable safety net of protection for those at risk.

Specifically, protections such as “guaranteed issue” and “continuous coverage” remain on the books. What this means is that a state waiver will not apply to anyone who has insurance right now or maintains their already existing plan. In other words, if you are someone with a pre-existing condition who has signed up for coverage already on an Obamacare plan (or another insurance plan), your protections will still apply even if your state applies for a waiver from the Health and Human Services Department.

Furthermore, even if you do not maintain insurance coverage and your state successfully applies for a waiver, your state would still be required to establish a high-risk pool to help offset some of the costs associated with additional fees.

To read more about exactly what the bill does with pre-existing conditions, I encourage you to read this National Review article here. Below are some bullet points quoted from the article to give you an idea of what the bill accomplishes.

  • Under the new bill, States would be able to waive Obamacare rules on preexisting conditions only for people who do not maintain insurance coverage.
  • If you are someone with one of those conditions who has gotten coverage through Obamacare (or otherwise gotten coverage), the Obamacare regulations will still apply: In no state will it be possible for an insurance company to charge you more than a person without such a condition.
  • If you are someone who has insurance and develops one of these conditions, you too will be covered by the Obamacare regulations. Insurers will not be able to charge you extra, either, under any waiver.
  • People with preexisting conditions, then, would have a triple safety net even in a state that took maximum use of the waivers: Tax credits, regulatory protection contingent on continuous coverage, and high-risk pools would all benefit them.

Small Business Week

This week Congress observed Small Business Week, and let me tell you, there is no better small business community anywhere than right at home in Western North Carolina.

When I think about the highlights of coming home, without a doubt, the visits to my friends and neighbors at local businesses in the area are at the top of the list every time. There are too many memories and pictures to count, but I thought you might enjoy some of the highlights here. These are the people that truly make our economy go. Thank you to the small businesses owners in WNC and around the country for all you and your hardworking employees do!

The Regulations Rollback Continues

President Donald Trump continues to unlock our job creators by rolling back excessive and burdensome Obama-era regulations.

You may remember earlier this year when my office put out a recommendation list of rules and regulations for President Trump to roll back through Executive Order. Many of those regulations on the list have already been cut or significantly tailored. Last week, another set of those were added to the list as the President ordered steps to reduce the costly and ineffective Obama school lunch regulations.

Every day we continue to make significant progress in reigning in the out of control bureaucracy in Washington. Let’s keep pushing forward! To read more, click here.

Another Positive Jobs Report

We received great news from Friday’s Jobs Report! Our economy added over 211,000 new jobs, and the jobless rate is at its lowest point in the last 10 years.

We have a long road ahead, but we’re off to a great start in getting needless bureaucracy out of the way of everyday Americans on Main Street. Click here to read more.

Cooper Vetoes Bill Limiting Farm Nuisance Damages

From US News & World Report

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed legislation limiting certain monetary damages that neighbors of hog and poultry farm operations can collect if a court determines the stench from animal waste is officially a nuisance.

“The agriculture and forestry industries are vital to our economy and we should encourage them to thrive. But nuisance laws can be used to protect property rights and make changes for good,” Cooper said in his veto message, adding that eroding nuisance actions “can allow real harm to homeowners, the environment and everyday North Carolinians.”

The measure would restrict compensatory damages in these civil lawsuits against farming and forestry operations up to the lost property value or rental value of affected properties.

Astute readers will note that all this bill did was restrict the amount of compensatory damages that could be awarded in a lawsuit.  It did nothing whatsoever to reduce state or federal environmental regulation.  Cooper clearly appears to suggest that lawsuits over nuisance damages are a major force in protecting the environment.

Perhaps we should file this under “Roy Cooper Lies Again”


On-Campus Free Speech? Not So Much

Editor’s note:  There is good news and bad news here.  The bad news is what you’re about to learn about the sorry state of free speech on many college campuses.  The good news is that there are young men like Nicholas Williams out there.  Personally, people like Nicholas make me a bit less terrified of growing older. – Paul Yeager

Upon hearing about the introduction of the Restore/Preserve Campus Free Speech Act in the North Carolina Legislature, I decided to give a written testimony on my experience as a student at a North Carolina college with restrictive free speech codes. I have included a detailed report of the current state of free speech on my campus, Appalachian State University.

Important points on free speech on college campuses today:

1) Many universities have instituted restrictive free speech codes in recent years, many of these codes are vague and place a limitation on the fundamental civil liberty of free speech.

2) Universities should be bastions of free expression, enabling critical thinking and productive debate.

3) The American Civil Liberties Union has openly condemned free speech zones and restrictive free speech codes.

4) Many public universities in North Carolina still have free-speech zones, at Appalachian State University, only approximately 7 acres of the 375 developed acres owned by the university – or 2% of campus space – are designated as a “free-speech zone.”

5) When crafting free speech policies, many universities do not abide by reasonable limitations, such as time, place, and manner. Some policies (see Appalachian State University’s chalking policy 3.20) place an outright ban on political expression via some mediums of free speech.

6) The State of North Carolina has a duty to protect the basic elements of the First Amendment on its public universities.

7) In those protections, it is important to protect the right for an individual to freely express themselves without fear of censorship or being shut-down and silenced.

8) Public universities should adhere to the basic protection of free speech as permitted by the State of North Carolina as well as the United States Judicial System. There is little-to-no “wiggle room” for universities to craft their own free speech policies that do not fall in line with free speech precedent.

My name is Nicholas Williams, I am a sophomore economics major at Appalachian State University. I am currently the Co-President of Appalachian State Young Americans for Liberty. Upon my tenure as a student at Appalachian State University, I have served as a student government Senator, a member of university committees, and an executive member for other various advocacy and academic organizations on campus.

Due to recent encounters with school administration on various forms of on-campus activism, I felt compelled to secure one of the most basic fundamental civil liberties, freedom of speech. I write this brief not as a conservative or liberal, but as an engaged student concerned with free speech on college campuses today.

Universities should be bastions of free expression and open dialogue; however, recent campus responses to various forms of political expression have placed unreasonable restrictions on free speech. These restrictions have created unnecessary controversy and censorship. These restrictive codes have failed to maintain an open learning environment with free exchange of ideas.

When a university crafts policy on free speech, it is important to look at precedent on free speech policies across the country. It is also important to recognize that any limitation of political speech is restrictive. The first amendment is not crafted for loose interpretation and it is important for state-funded universities to uphold, and not dilute, students’ basic right to free speech.

I first became aware of Appalachian State’s restrictive free speech codes after a friend and I were participating in electioneering at Appalachian State’s on-campus voting site. After placing campaign material outside of the university’s dining hall, a location which was non-impeding to students and voters, we were confronted by the university police. We were informed that we were not allowed to place campaign material in this location as it was not a recognized free speech zone by the university. As active students on campus, we were appalled to learn that the university still enforced free-speech zones after other universities had failed in defense of their free-speech zones. We complied with the officers’ demands, but were encouraged to conduct research on Appalachian State’s history with free speech.

Upon our initial research, we discovered that Appalachian State’s Free-Speech zones consisted of 7.69 acres of University property. Compared to the 375 total acres of campus, recognized free-speech zones only consist of 2% of the total developed campus property. Since we discovered those facts, we made several strides with student government in preparing legislation to address these restrictive codes, yet the likelihood of administration adopting these suggestions are slim.

In 2007, Appalachian State University Student Government adopted a resolution to “Repeal University policies that restrict Free Speech” which maintained that the current restrictive free speech codes violate the Appalachian State University Student Government Association’s Bill of Rights, Section C, states, “Each student shall be secure that no University organizations or their facilities shall be used as a device of censorship.” Since the passage of that resolution, there was little-to-no action from the university to reduce the restrictive free speech codes.

The American Civil Liberties Union stated on free speech zones, “While there may be specific areas where speech activities can be limited, such as inside classrooms or administrative offices, the presumption, is that all other areas of the campus must be open to lawful speech activities and no special permission is required.” Free speech zones have a history of merely tolerating speech in certain designated areas rather than inducing a “marketplace of ideas,” an axiom which has traditionally held true to productive and fruitful college campuses.

February of 2014, the Huffington Post published an article by FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) which ranked Appalachian State University as the 7th worst college for free speech in 2013. As a proud student and advocate for Appalachian State University, I do not think it serves our state’s best interest to continue allowing restrictive free speech policies on taxpayer-funded campuses. Enabling these current policies to stay in place sends a message loud and clear on the state’s stance on promoting open dialogue, and free exchange of ideas. The Constitution is very explicit about the importance of upholding free speech.

Inhibiting another’s ability to peacefully express their views is a blatant form of censorship. The first amendment is applicable throughout all of the United States, not just certain marginal areas university administration deems appropriate. Furthermore, it is critical that the rights of speech for any speaker be protected from interference.

Regardless of your stance on the speaker or topic, their ensured civil liberty is just as important to protect as anyone else’s. The most effective way to combat bad ideas is through discussion and debate, restrictive codes only further increase tensions. These quick, but dangerous, resolves made by administrators in attempt to suppress tension only “add fuel to the fire.”

Most recently, my university instituted a policy in response to certain political messages written in chalk. On September 28th, the Chancellor announced that the university had instituted a new policy on “chalking,” policy 3.20 which prohibits chalking to only marketing for on-campus approved events. In her email, she stated, “It is important to note that free speech is encouraged on our campus, but not all speech that may be considered protected under state or federal laws is consistent with the university’s values and mission.”

This policy outright bans a medium of free speech, not placing a reasonable limitation on political chalking, but limiting chalking to the purposes of marketing events. Furthermore, the statement in the chancellor’s email alludes to empowering the university administration to determine their own limitations on free speech despite what federal and state laws and constitutions have upheld. This further justifies the need for the State of North Carolina to clear up the ambiguous free speech codes which are plaguing North Carolina’s college campuses.

As someone that has been relatively involved in on-campus politics, I was not directly affecting by the chalking ban. But I recognized the dangerous precedent the university administration was setting for free speech codes in the future, and felt compelled to get involved.

My organization, Appalachian State Young Americans for Liberty, held three pro-free speech events this year. We held a Free Speech Beach Ball event in September, and Free Speech Chalking Protests in October and February. Our message was rooted in the importance of defending the First Amendment, and that restriction of speech benefits no parties involved in discussion or debate. We used these events as a way to educate the student body on the university’s policy on chalking and free speech zones.

All three events received applause from students and faculty. The participants ranged from all ends of the political spectrum. Our free speech chalking protests were two events where we provided chalk, as well as copies of the constitution, to students and encouraged them to write whatever they please, as long as it was not threatening or libel. As you may expect, the protest provoked many different individuals to write encouraging messages to one another, offer opinions on political issues, and provoke various forms of free expression in chalk.

During our second chalking protest, we were encountered by a campus police officer. As they were doing their job, they were not clear on what the policy permitted and what it did not permit. My Co-President and I were faced with potential university conduct charges on vandalism. Fortunately, after receiving adequate legal advice from our attorney as well as outside free speech advocacy organizations, the university’s student conduct board dropped all potential charges.

Unfortunately, we were not able to incite change on the administration’s stance on chalking. As an individual, I would have no right to write a political message in washable chalk. The university does have a right to set reasonable limitations on chalk, such as the chalk must be washable and chalking messages cannot be under an overhang or roof; however, the university did not place a reasonable limitation on the act of chalking.

Since our protests, we have been contacted by the student newspapers, alumni, and various other students asking how they can contribute their energy to the cause. Students and faculty understand the utmost importance of upholding free speech on college campuses. In fact, on February 13th, the Appalachian State University Faculty Senate passed a resolution which stated, “It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”

Reactionary policies in response to free speech do nothing to limit tensions or provide a “safe space” for students; instead, they create a hostile environment for exchange of ideas and intellectual discussion. Public university administration, which do not have nearly as much freedom to craft their own policies as private universities do, should hold true to the basic standards of civil liberties.

Students, just as I did, have the potential of being charged for exercising their first amendment rights. Differing opinions and outlooks should be encouraged on college campuses, and our country has had the unique historical advantage of upholding the first amendment, however the most basic civil liberty is threatened on college campuses today.

Opponents of free speech have applauded these restrictive codes as “safe speech;” it is unfortunate and irrational that some individuals view certain differing opinions as a threat to their safety. Restrictive free speech codes on colleges only further false securities during a critical time in human life where critical thinking and difference in outlook are crucial for development.

I hope that members of the North Carolina General Assembly recognize their duty to protect basic constitutional rights on North Carolina’s college campuses. Academic excellence and personal freedom is vastly reduced when colleges impose restrictions on speech to their students and staff.

Nicholas V. Williams

Who Is Defending Us?

By Frank Schaeffer of the Washington Post

Before my son became a Marine, I never thought much about who was defending me. Now when I read of the war on terrorism or the coming conflict in Iraq, it cuts to my heart. When I see a picture of a member of our military who has been killed, I read his or her name very carefully. Sometimes I cry.

In 1999, when the barrel-chested Marine recruiter showed up in dress blues and bedazzled my son John, I did not stand in the way. John was headstrong, and he seemed to understand these stern, clean men with straight backs and flawless uniforms. I did not. I live in the Volvo-driving, higher education-worshiping North Shore of Boston. I write novels for a living. I have never served in the military.

It had been hard enough sending my two older children off to Georgetown and New York University. John’s enlisting was unexpected, so deeply unsettling. I did not relish the prospect of answering thequestion, “So where is John going to college?” from the parents who were itching to tell me all about how their son or daughter was going to Harvard. At the private high school John attended, no other students were going into the military.

“But aren’t the Marines terribly Southern?” (Says a lot about open-mindedness in the Northeast) asked one perplexed mother while standing next to me at the brunch following graduation. “What a waste, he was such a good student,” said another parent. One parent (a professor at a nearby and rather famous university) spoke up at a school meeting and suggested that the school should “carefully evaluate what went wrong.”

When John graduated from three months of boot camp on Parris Island, 3000 parents and friends were on the parade deck stands. We parents and our Marines not only were of many races but also were representative of many economic classes. Many were poor. Some arrived crammed in the backs of pickups, others by bus. John told me that a lot of parents could not afford the trip.

We in the audience were white and Native American. We were Hispanic, Arab, and African American, and Asian. We were former Marines wearing the scars of battle, or at least baseball caps emblazoned with battles’ names. We were Southern whites from Nashville and skinheads from New Jersey, black kids from Cleveland wearing ghetto rags and white ex-cons with ham-hock forearms defaced by jailhouse tattoos. We would not have been mistaken for the educated and well-heeled parents gathered on the lawns of John’s private school a half-year before.

After graduation one new Marine told John, “Before I was a Marine, if I had ever seen you on my block I would’ve probably killed you just because you were standing there.” This was a serious statement from one of John’s good friends, a black ex-gang member from Detroit who, as John said, “would die for me now, just like I’d die for him.”

My son has connected me to my country in a way that I was too selfish and insular to experience before. I feel closer to the waitress at our local diner than to some of my oldest friends. She has two sons in the Corps. They are facing the same dangers as my boy. When the guy who fixes my car asks me how John is doing, I know he means it. His younger brother is in the Navy.

Why were I and the other parents at my son’s private school so surprised by his choice? During World War II, the sons and daughters of the most powerful and educated families did their bit. If the idea of the immorality of the Vietnam War was the only reason those lucky enough to go to college dodged the draft, why did we not encourage our children to volunteer for military service once that war was done?

Have we wealthy and educated Americans all become pacifists? Is the world a safe place? Or have we just gotten used to having somebody else defend us?

What is the future of our democracy when the sons and daughters of the janitors at our elite universities are far more likely to be put in harm’s way than are any of the students whose dorms their parents clean?

I feel shame because it took my son’s joining the Marine Corps to make me take notice of who is defending me. I feel hope because perhaps my son is part of a future “greatest generation. “As the storm clouds of war gather, at least I know that I can look the men and women in uniform in the eye. My son is one of them. He is the best I have to offer. He is my heart.

“Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out.”

Oh, how I wish so many of our younger generations could read this article. It makes me so sad to hear the way they talk with no respect for what their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers experienced so they can live in freedom. Please pass it on….

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as you ever can.” – John Wesley

Hat tip to the person who emailed me this – you know who you are.


HRA Supports Congressman Meadows

Today I listened to a speech given by Matt Coffay in Waynesville as he proudly announced he would be challenging U.S. House Representative Mark Meadows (R) for the 11th congressional district seat.

Coffay proclaimed “I’m here to tell you that I’m going to stand up to insurance companies. I’m going to stand up to the health insurance industry…and say that we need Medicare for all.”

Hearing this statement sent chills down my spine, this young man obviously believes in the redistribution of wealth or in simple terms stealing what I work for to pay for what others have not worked for.

This whole mentality is counter to the very capitalist ideals and free market principles that our country was founded on. In fact thinking like this by the Obama administration has left our children with a 20 trillion dollar debt and nothing to show for it.

The Haywood Republican Alliance will proudly support Congressman Mark Meadows in his re-election bid.

Congressman Meadows has demonstrated his ability and willingness to communicate and listen to the majority of his constituents in his district and then act based on that input.

Mark has often spent his days home working in local businesses where he gets first-hand interaction with the people he represents.

Mark keeps the voters informed through his newsletter, which all constituents can sign up for and receive free of charge.

Strong communication with constituents is the most basic thing a Congressman is supposed to do. Mark has done that well and listens to what his constituents are telling him.

Mark has also stood strong to his campaign promise of a complete repeal of Obamacare. We are thankful that he did not cave in to pressure from within his own party to replace one government healthcare plan with another government healthcare plan with a different name.

For all these reasons we stand beside Congressman Mark Meadows and encourage you to vote for sound proven leadership in the 11th district come election time.

Thank you
Jeremy Davis
Haywood Republican Alliance


NC Lawmaker Admits HB2 Repeal was Driven By Image, Fear of Leftist Media

From Liberty Headlines:

The North Carolina lawmaker who drove the final effort to successfully repeal the state’s artificially demonized House Bill 2 (HB2) admitted this week that her motivation was “the way the media played it up” and to “get the rest of the nation off our back.”

NC Lawmaker Admits HB2 Repeal was Driven By Fear of Media, Nat'l Perception

NC Rep. Sarah Stevens

State Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican who represents Mt. Airy — the town that served as the model for “Mayberry” in “The Andy Griffith Show” — introduced and pushed for passage of House Bill 142, which erased the language of HB2 from North Carolina’s statutes. The now-banished law was known as the “transgender bathroom” bill that required individuals to use public restrooms and changing facilities according to their sex identities on their birth certificates.

In an interview with the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, which covers part of her district in rural northwestern North Carolina, Stevens said the merits of HB2 were irrelevant in light of attacks from the national Left, who were emboldened by liberal news coverage and alliances with major corporate CEOs, sports organizations, and Hollywood celebrities and performers.

“She said HB 2 ‘was not a bad bill,’” the newspaper reported, “‘but it had given us (North Carolina) a bad image because of the way the media played it up.’ HB 2 became a stain on the state that needed to be removed, said Stevens.”

“It was common sense to get us back to where we were before,” Stevens told the Journal-Patriot. “It was truly a re-set of the dial to get the rest of the nation off our back.”

Organizations that supported HB2 in North Carolina bristled at throwing out what they saw as sound law, that protected the privacy and provided legal protections for women and children when they are in restrooms and locker rooms.

Corporate Watchdogs Criticize Financiers of NCAA, ACC Threats Against North Carolina 5

Rev. Mark Creech

“It’s most disconcerting when legislation is done according to ‘image,’” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “Whatever happened to truth? Whatever happened to conviction?

“If lawmakers simply float with the currents, if they’re not firmly guided by the highest of principles and ideals, then they become nothing more than an echo, not a voice.”

Tar Heel lawmakers who supported Stevens’s bill felt a heightened sense of urgency to rid themselves of HB2 because the NCAA threatened them with a deadline of last week to repeal, or else face losing college sports tournaments for the next five or six years.

“By meeting the demands of the NCAA and all the other business interests and sports organizations who have bullied North Carolina, our leaders have demonstrated that whoever bullies the most and the loudest wins,” said the NC Values Coalition in an analysis issued on Wednesday. “This tactic will likely be used again, since it works.”

During debate of House Bill 142 last week, several legislators — most which represent rural districts — said calls and emails to their offices overwhelmingly opposed repeal of HB2.

“Perhaps it would be appropriate if we would commemorate the passage of this bill by inviting the governor to come down to the building today and lowering those two flags [the U.S. and North Carolina flags outside the Legislative Building] and putting up in their place a flag of a certain intercollegiate athletic association and a white flag,” said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.

The perception — both in the Tar Heel State and nationally — that HB2 was a bad law, almost universally hated, was false. Groups of pastors and civil rights leaders defended the bill. Concerned Women for America praised the fact that an attempted repeal in December failed. And several widely-read online conservative publications said the law was sound and sensible.

And lawmakers in other states have sought to advance legislative equivalents to HB2. It was just a matter of who lawmakers took their cues from.

The passage of House Bill 142 did not appease the Human Rights Campaign or Equality NC, the two most vocal LGBT advocacy groups that caterwauled for a repeal of HB2. They have continued their campaign against the state because they say the replacement law still does not provide protections for self-proclaimed transgenders and “gender fluids” to use any restroom that matches their “identities.” Some businesses, groups, and public officials have said they will continue their boycotts of North Carolina in support of HRC and Equality NC.

“I fear the legislation that passed will provide no reset,” said Rev. Creech. “Lawmakers who voted for ‘repeal and replace’ are not likely to succeed in getting the HRC and other Leftist groups off our back until every vestige of HB2 is removed, either by a straight–up repeal of the current measure or knocked down by a progressive court.”

“These insidious social terrorists cannot be pacified or placated,” he added. “They must be defeated.”

In Defense of the Freedom Caucus

From National Review:

It’s wrong for Trump to blame the conservatives.

The demise of the American Health Care Act, House speaker Paul Ryan and the White House’s ill-fated effort to reform Obamacare, has prompted a cascade of finger-pointing as Republicans try to assign blame for their recent embarrassment.

The White House and much of the Republican establishment have settled on a familiar scapegoat: the famously stubborn 30 or so members of the House Freedom Caucus. On Thursday morning, President Trump tweeted: “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

We have been not infrequent critics of the Freedom Caucus, who often seem oblivious to Ronald Reagan’s observation that “my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.” There is no doubt that members of the caucus can be frustrating and prone to an unrealistic tactical maximalism.

Yet in this latest episode, the Freedom Caucus was mostly in the right (and it wasn’t just them — members from all corners of the House GOP found it impossible to back the bill). The American Health Care Act was a kludge of a health-care policy. Described as a way to simultaneously repeal key elements of the Affordable Care Act and replace them with market-oriented reforms, the bill in its final form managed to do little of either.

Freedom Caucus members were particularly concerned about the willingness of House leaders to leave the vast majority of Obamacare’s regulations on the books — after Republicans spent seven years promising that the party would “repeal and replace Obamacare.” Even the rationale that the AHCA would be better than nothing was hard to justify; it probably would have further destabilized the individual market, while millions fewer would have been insured.

No wonder that strong-arming on behalf of the bill didn’t work. According to news reports, in the final hours, the White House sent adviser Steve Bannon to tell obstinate Freedom Caucus members that they “have no choice” but to vote for the bill. It’s hard to imagine a less effective pitch to a group that has long accused Republican leaders of trying to coerce conservatives into falling in line against their principles.

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