By Michael Stone – WUFT News contributor
Ron Paul said Monday night that the pinnacle of a decades-long political career has been “being well received on college campuses.”
“The young generation are waking up to the fact that (U.S. government officials) don’t need to be telling the world what to do until we take care of our problems here at home,” he told the 2,062 gathered in the University of Florida’s O’Connell Center.
Paul, 77, represented Texas in the U.S. House for three separate spans from 1976 to this past January, and ran for president as the Libertarian candidate in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008 and 2012.
On Monday, he echoed the beliefs that served as the foundations of his political career—instituting the gold standard in place of the Federal Reserve, free trade, elimination of foreign financial aid and preemptive military strikes, ending the war on drugs, lower taxes, individual liberty and limited government.
“Does that mean I have confidence in you that you will never do anything wrong? Absolutely not,” he said. “Do I have more confidence in you doing the right thing than the bureaucrats and the politicians in Washington? Absolutely.”
Coincidentally, Paul’s visit fell on the filing deadline for income taxes. “Some day,” he said, “maybe we won’t make April 15 to be such a bad day and get rid of the income tax.”
Thunderous applause and occasional shouts of “Ron Paul!” filled the breaks in his speech from the largely student crowd. Much of what he conveyed related to issues that weigh heavy on college minds.
“The burden that your generation is assuming is horrendous,” Paul said of the $5.7 trillion in foreign debt that has made the U.S. the “biggest debtor in the history of the world.”
Following a speech of about 45 minutes, Paul was asked student-submitted questions by moderator Josh Holtzman, chairman of ACCENT, the organization that invited Paul to speak for $55,000. Among the questions were Paul’s thoughts on allowing concealed firearms on college campuses and lowering the drinking age.
Paul said he would “lean” toward allowing students to carry concealed firearms, while saying drinking issues should be left to families and shouldn’t necessarily be guided by age.
The former congressman also alluded to his support of gay marriage, asking: “Why don’t we just let people decide what the definition (of marriage) is?”
Intertwined in his speech were criticisms of the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq and other U.S. security and military policies. Meanwhile, he offered praise to the Internet as an information resource, WikiLeaks and whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, an Army soldier who remains jailed after allegedly providing classified government materials to Wikileaks.
“The bigger the government, the bigger the lies. And the bigger the lies, the less liberty we have,” Paul said. “Truth is treason in the empire of lies.”