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Newt Gingrich to speak at Lincoln Day Dinner

| Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Notre Dame College Republicans (NDCR) has invited former Speaker of the House and 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for its annual Lincoln Day Dinner and Speech on April 15.

“The Lincoln Day Dinner is an annual event that most Republican organizations hold,” NDCR president, senior Mark Gianfalla, said. “For us, we’ve had one as long as I’ve been here. … I think continually for the last 10 years our club has done it.

“In the last few years we’ve really picked up the fundraising aspect of it and basically increased our budget for the event 500 times what it was two years ago.”

Last year, the club invited Fox News contributor and conservative political pundit Ann Coulter to speak at the Lincoln Day events, drawing harsh criticism from several student groups and inspiring a series of protests on campus.

The Lincoln Day celebrations include a speech, which is free but ticketed and open to the public, that will be held April 15 at 6 p.m. in Washington Hall, and the dinner that follows is for members of the club and community members.

Gianfalla said he anticipates 250 attendees at the dinner, a dramatic increase from last year’s 85 attendees and 30 the year before.

“Anybody who has an affiliation with the club is invited — dues-paying members obviously have first access, and then faculty and staff who want to attend,” Gianfalla said.

“We have some alumni … but also a large portion of the local community that is supportive, both financially and through campaign efforts and club events — we invite those people as well. This year, a large portion of the attendees will be community members,” he said.

To fund what Gianfalla described as a “$25,000 event,” the club has turned local party affiliates and national organizations for assistance. In particular, NDCR formed a partnership with the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), a group that describes itself as “the principal outreach organization for the conservative movement.”

“We started a partnership with the Young America’s Foundation, which is a group that supports collegiate efforts to bring in conservative speakers,” Gianfalla said. “[YAF] negotiate the contracts with the speaker. They have existing relationships, and they contribute financially to bring in that speaker.

“… They contribute thousands of dollars to our speaker fees every year; this year they’re contributing a large portion — at least half — and the rest of that is coming from the local Republican Party … and individuals in the community such as local party members and people who have supported us in the past who live locally. We also get some money from the University as a club, and a small portion of that comes from dues as well,” Gianfalla said.

In choosing the Lincoln Day speaker, Gianfalla said budget limitations played a role in the decision but that the speaker’s “notoriety” and ability to draw a crowd was also a factor.

“We want someone with good name recognition, who can fill a 650-person auditorium,” he said. “We also want [someone] who can add quality discussion, quality commentary during the speech.”

NDCR secretary, sophomore Dylan Stevenson, added that Gingrich proved a good choice for the dinner because of his unique perspective and experiences in government.

“To mention that Gingrich was Speaker of the House [of Representatives], House Minority Whip and that he was Time’s ‘Man of the Year’ in 1994 would be to mention just a few of his many achievements,” Stevenson said in an email. “He served over 20 years as a Representative in the House and had the ear of Presidents Reagan and Clinton.

“One of the main reasons we invited him was to hear him reflect on these experiences and really give the club a good idea as to what it’s like to have access to the corridors of power. As a former Presidential candidate, he can provide a really unique perspective about that process as the two parties gear up for primaries.

“I think one of the big things that he’ll do to help dialogue is draw attention to the Party and its principles. I think that, by highlighting how Conservative principles would help this country, he’ll get the proverbial ball rolling, and I think we’ll see intelligent discussion about these principles filtering through the student body. Moreover, given that we’re already seeing potential 2016 candidates make themselves known, I think he’ll add fuel to the fire of presidential intrigue that is starting to grow here,” Stevenson said.

According to Gianfalla, Gingrich will speak on “domestic and foreign policy” in his speech, in line with the events that NDCR has participated in and hosted so far this year.

“This year, we wanted to choose someone who would follow the theme of our programming,” Gianfalla said. “We had a big Rick Santorum speech at the beginning of the year, and we’ve had a lot of political discussion at our meetings and as well as a lot of debate.

“We really wanted to engage the knowledge base of the student body … to broaden that base on issues. I think [Newt Gingrich] will foster that aspect of our programming this year very well.”

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About Margaret Hynds

Margaret is a senior Political Science major and the former Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. She hails from Washington, D.C., and is a former Phox of Pangborn Hall. Follow Margaret on Twitter @MargaretHynds

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