When Will Dede ’14 learned that Karl Rove, the former senior advisor to President George W. Bush, was planning to give a lecture at Randolph College, he knew it would be a great opportunity to meet one of the nation’s most influential Republican political strategists.
Dede, who plans to become a legislative assistant for Democratic senators, introduced Rove at the January event. The lecture filled Smith Hall Theatre with Randolph and Lynchburg community members.
During the afternoon of his visit, Rove spent an hour with about 30 Randolph students in a question and answer session. Rove’s lecture reminded Dede of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s lecture at the College in 2010, although it provided a perspective from the other side of the political aisle.
“Coming to Randolph and seeing people like Howard Dean and Karl Rove and learning from professors in the political science department you learn to take a more pragmatic look at things,” he said. “You learn to look at the facts—whether they are on the left side or the right side of the political spectrum—analyze something, and come to the correct conclusions.”
Rove defended and explained a variety of Republican positions, but he also dissected the political strategy playing out in the Republican Primaries. When it comes time for the general election, the candidates will focus on their plans for improving the U.S. economy, Rove said. They probably also will focus on Virginia’s electoral votes, meaning Randolph College could witness some of the most crucial campaigning this fall, he said.
“I think Republicans have got to be very careful about how they depict this president,” Rove said. “The swing voters this election like President Obama, they’re just disappointed in what he has done. Rhetoric that goes over the top will cause some of them to instinctively defend him.”
Youssef Elkei ’13 also attended Rove’s private session with students and said speakers such as Rove help students understand perspectives they might not otherwise encounter.
“There are a lot of different viewpoints, and people believe in them very strongly,” he said, adding that it is important to listen to others. “You are not trying to change their views, and they’re not trying to change yours, but you’re seeing what’s out there in the world.”