University of Florida’s ACCENT Speakers Bureau, the nation’s largest student-run speakers’ bureau, hosted Ohio’s 69th governor John Kasich on Wednesday night in the University Auditorium.
Kasich discussed growing up with blue collar roots, self-empowerment and “living life bigger than yourself” to a crowd of about 800.
“You have a destiny… you have a purpose, you were created for something special,” Kasich said.
He gave several anecdotes of people he’s met throughout his life who he believes have changed the world.
One person was Albert Lexie, a developmentally disabled man who worked as a shoe-shiner in UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Over the course of 30 years, Lexie donated a total of over $200,000 of his tips to the hospital.
“These stories are remarkable but they give me hope,” Kasich said.
Kasich called on the audience to open their minds to make a difference, and to show love to those who need it.
“I’m begging you millennials, we’re all counting on you,” Kasich said, “What I learned about you is you learn from your parents. The fancy car, the big home, but you want more than that. You’ll take the job that pays less because it has meaning. Do it—let’s rebuild our country together.”
Kasich recalled his freshman year at Ohio State, when he went to the school’s president’s office to discuss issues with his dorm room and found out that the school president was meeting with then-President Richard Nixon. Kasich asked the school president to deliver a letter to Nixon, which led to him being invited to the White House.
Kasich said that the point of the story was to show that anyone can make an impact. “I want you to know that this could be you,” Kasich said.
During the audience Q&A portion of the event, students asked if he planned to run for president again in 2020, after losing the Republican nomination in 2016.
“I’m only interested in running if I can win,” Kasich said, “I’m not interested in running to damage someone else.”
But Kasich also said he wouldn’t rule out running as a third-party candidate. “All options are on the table,” he said.
In the middle of questions about gun control and political polarization, one student who stepped to the mic simply wanted a hug from Kasich, and he obliged.
ACCENT chairman Greg Wolf said that he wanted to bring a speaker with a political background and that he thought Kasich would be an inclusive choice.
“I hope [the audience] took his message to heart about being an individual, and that everyone matters, and that everyone has a purpose,” Wolf said, “I thought it was really inspiring.”
ACCENT paid Kasich $60,000 plus travel expenses according to the contract.
UF freshman political science major Jackie Hunter said that she was surprised that Kasich spoke less about politics and more about making positive change in the world.
“I particularly really liked when he spoke about spirituality and how polarization will continue to grow if the people of the United States can’t find peace within themselves,” Hunter said, “I thought his approach was very unique and something that more people should consider.”
UF junior political science major Joseph Lavoie said he heard about the show from friends sharing the event page on Facebook.
“I’m glad to see ACCENT bringing more conservative-minded speakers to campus,” Lavoie said.