McCain Returns To Columbia U. After Cool Reception In 2006

This story was written by Melissa Repko, Columbia Daily Spectator
When Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) last spoke on campus at Columbia Colleges Class Day in 2006, he was greeted with 800 orange buttons and 100 umbrellas that read McCain does not speak for me.

Its safe to say that this time around, things will be different.

McCain, connected to Columbia as the father of alumna Meghan McCain, CC 07, is returning to Morningside Heights as a presidential nominee. He will speak about service back-to-back with his political rival, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), CC 83. The date marks a pivotal moment in the nations historyand in the life of New York City. Both campaigns have issued a joint statement pledging to keep Sept. 11, 2008 nonpartisan, and their student constituents have said they would follow suit.

On a campus known for liberal-leaning students, perhaps McCain feels he has little to loseand maybe even votes to gain.

Joining together to talk about national service is where all Americans of all ages and political leanings can come together to promote the country, McCain spokesman Joe Pounder said. The one thing we should all be able to agree on is that national service is a priority for our country.

In his Class Day speech, McCain backed the Iraq war and emphasized the civic and moral obligation of debate and disagreement. His statement that he supported the decision to go to war in Iraq elicited boos from a number of people in the audience of Columbia College students, friends, and family. Student protestors expressed opposition to his stances on gay rights and abortion, topics he avoided.

Lauren Salz, BC 11 and executive director of the Columbia University College Republicans, acknowledged the strong resentment towards McCains last visit and called it less than a warm reception.

But, she said, Maybe Columbia has grown since then. Maybe this [nonpartisan event] is a kind of tribute to that.

Pounder said that the theme of the day itself, advocating public service, should minimize dissent.

National service is one of the areas where both candidates agree, and where Democrats and Republicans can work together in a bipartisan fashion, he said.McCain emphasized the character-shaping aspects of serving in the Vietnam War and spending five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in his speech at the Republican National Convention on Sept. 4.

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone elses. ... I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for, he said at the RNC.

The convention speechs theme of putting country before partisanship will likely be a message McCain touches upon at the ServiceNation Summit.

After 9/11, he was very quick to call on Americans to serve their countries in many fashions, Pounder said.

The visit to Columbia itself aligns with one of McCains major campaign initiatives: reaching out to young people. While Obama has been largely considered a magnet for the youth vote, McCain also hopes to harness power from grassroots activism among college-age voters.

John McCain is committed to reaching out to young people, Pounder said.McCain spoke at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and plans to make more campaign stops at colleges, Pounder said.

Among issues McCain has in common with young voters, Pounder listed increasing the number of jobs, improving national security, and addressing climate change.

And even if his political platform clashes with some Columbia students views, McCain may have similar taste buds. In an MSNBC interview Sept. 9, Meghan McCain mentioned that Toms Restaurant is her dads favorite thing about Columbia.

He used to tell everyone, Meghan and I ate at the Seinfeld restaurant! He could have taken me to Nobu, but we went to the Seinfeld restaurant, she told MSNBC.

His ties to Columbia also take on a personal significance. Pounder said McCain appreciates any opportunity to visit there, and appreciates the education his daughter received there.melissa.repko@columbiaspectator.com

Election 2008, John McCain, Republicans

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