Last night, former Representative Ron Paul spoke to a packed room in Lee Chapel at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The building held about 500 while another location was set up nearby to provide live video feed for those unable to fit inside. The Contact Committee, the W&L Politics Department, and the W&L College Republicans sponsored the event.
Starting at 9 AM the day before, Contact began giving out tickets to Tuesday’s event. However, in a mere forty minutes, all 350 tickets allotted for early seating were claimed, leaving the multitude with the hope of snagging one of the remaining 150 seats prior to the event on a first come first serve basis.
Given Dr. Paul’s numerous contributions to the rise of the liberty movement, along with the work I did on his campaign staff in 2007/08, and the fact that this event marked his first visit to the Shenandoah Valley, I knew that I had to make every effort to attend. As I arrived slightly too late to secure one of the early tickets on Monday morning, I left Harrisonburg at about 3:30 PM on Tuesday along with fellow activist and blogger Helen Shibut of the Madison Liberty blog.
A light rain marked our departure and it continued to be our constant companion as we traveled along Interstate 81 and into Lexington. Surprisingly, the parking lot closest to the chapel still had a couple of spots open and so we were able to avoid a lengthy walk. More shocking still had to be the number of people standing outside the chapel when we arrived. Given how quickly the tickets were exhausted, I envisioned a lengthy line of people waiting until they could enter the building at 6 PM. However, due, in part, to the poor weather, we were the 7th and 8th to enter. Even though not in line at that time, there were others who were already there. For example, Karen Kwiatkowski and a contingent of like-minded folks were lingering inside a nearby building until the time drew closer.
The weather continued to degrade, but the line grew steadily and by the time that the doors opened, one could not see from one end of the crowd to the other. Although the announcement indicated that attendees would be unable to come in the building without semi-formal attire, several people in line wore casual clothing such as blue jeans; it is uncertain whether these folks were allowed admittance.
Dr. Paul’s entered the main floor of the chapel to thunderous applause shortly after 7 PM. He spoke on a wide variety of topics important to the liberty movement including, but not limited to: a non-interventionist foreign policy, the need for a sound currency and the impending financial collapse, the importance of sticking to political principles, the proper role of government, and the constant erosion of our civil liberties. After his speech, he fielded a number of questions from the audience regarding what political party best embodied his principles, the issue of abortion, religious freedom, and concerns regarding the investigation into 9/11. The entire event lasted for a little less than an hour and a half.
All in all, I would rate Dr. Paul’s visit to Lexington as a success. The only change that I would suggest would be a larger venue. According to the various event notices posted on Facebook, W&L could have easily filled a space that was two, three, or even four times larger. So then, why did they choose the chapel? Well, there is no question that the location is picturesque and is steeped in history. The basement formally served as the office for Robert E. Lee and presently holds his remains. In addition, I was told that when Washington & Lee hosted Rudi Giuliani some time earlier, they had considerable difficulty reaching the 500-person threshold. But, such concerns were not necessary that night. After all, as Ron Paul reminds us, freedom, much like Dr. Paul himself, is popular.