Rand Paul Argues GOP Case to Skeptical Students at Historically Black College

Overall, it seemed that students were not receptive to the senator’s message of giving the GOP a chance.

“All his examples were from decades ago,” said Bryon Jenkins, a political science major from North Carolina. “I wasn’t really moved by his speech.”

Some students were more skeptical about the senator’s visit.

Toward the beginning of Paul’s remarks, a student stood in front of the stage holding a banner that read “Howard University Doesn’t Support White Supremacy.” The protester was quickly escorted out of the auditorium.

During the question-and-answer session, Paul had to defend his obstruction to a bill that would have granted the District of Columbia local autonomy over its own budget without congressional oversight.

He also defended Republicans against charges of voter suppression in connection with recent efforts by some states to pass voter ID laws. Democrats have said Republicans are targeting minority and poor voters -- who typically vote for Democrats and who are less likely to possess an ID.

"I think if you liken using a driver's license to a literacy test you demean the horror of what happened in the ‘40s and ‘50s. It was horrific. No one is in favor of that," Paul said. "But showing your driver's license to have an honest election is not unreasonable."

When a student said that he wants a government ready to help him, not a government that will leave him alone, Paul gave a response summarizing his philosophy.

“When I say that I believe in a government that leaves you alone, that doesn’t mean no government. One of the things I often say is not that I believe in no government, it’s just that I believe in a government that spends what comes in,” Paul said. “I think 'leave me alone' is a good mantra for government, because government has to be involved in certain things, but there are many things we can leave government out of.”

Paul’s address at the historically black university is part of an effort to reach to youth and minority voters by Republican leaders. A recent report of the 2012 election by the Republican National Committee recommended that educating students on conservative ideas would help the GOP rebrand itself and attract minorities to help win future elections.

Paul won some respect from the students and perhaps a few converts.

Chris Kirkpatrick, a sophomore finance major, said Paul’s speech at Howard opened him to consider voting for the senator in the 2016 presidential election.

“I’m a Democrat; just the fact that [Sen. Paul] came to Howard has made me consider being more open to what the Republicans have to say,” said Kirpatrick.