U.S. Senators McCain, Brown Visit GCU
McCain, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008, is seeking re-election in 2010 to a fifth term in the Senate. His representatives approached the university about serving as the site for the event, which attracted a crowd of 1,500 to Antelope Gymnasium for remarks by the two lawmakers on issues such as jobs, health care, federal spending and national defense.
Brown, the newly elected senator to the seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy, sought and received McCain’s support in his recent campaign. His upset victory in January made him the first Republican since 1972 to be elected to the Senate from Massachusetts.
“It was the election heard around the world,” McCain said of Brown’s triumph.
Media outlets such as NBC News, the Boston Globe and the Associated Press dispatched reporters, production people and satellite trucks to cover the event at GCU, along with all four of the major television stations from metropolitan Phoenix. Kelly O’Donnell of “The NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” reported live from the campus promenade later in the day.
“I’m honored to be in Antelope Country,” said Brown, who missed his daughter’s basketball game for Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in order to appear with McCain. He said he wished he had been able to see GCU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams play Thursday night.
Brent Richardson, GCU’s executive chairman of the board, said the visit to campus by the senators was a milestone in the continued growth of the university.
“It represents a culmination of the last six years of building this university,” Richardson said. “It’s confirmation that we’re becoming nationally known. Having them here validates that. It was a great day for Grand Canyon.”
McCain and Brown were officially welcomed by former Arizona Governor Fife Symington and Barry Goldwater Jr. and introduced by Grand Canyon CEO Brian Mueller. Mueller talked about GCU’s success as a for-profit, private Christian university during a time of financial distress for publicly funded institutions.
In his brief address, McCain offered sharp criticism of the health-care overhaul that is before Congress.
“We’re going to fight and fight and fight, and stop this massive takeover of the health-care system in America,” the senator said. “We’re not going to let the federal government get between you and your physician.”
Anne McNamara, the dean of GCU’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences, paid close attention to McCain’s remarks, which also touched on careers for which students are studying at the university.
“We have a robust family and nurse practitioner’s program,” McNamara said. “Primary care and prevention of illness will be a major piece of what’s coming (in health care). Over the last two and a half years, we’ve tripled our numbers in that program.
“I also was thinking about how our college supports a lot of ROTC students, who have a commitment back to the service.”
Dean Kevin Barksdale of the Ken Blanchard College of Business said GCU is well-positioned in metropolitan Phoenix and Arizona amid the challenging economic climate referenced by the senators.
“GCU has become an economic engine with large impact,” Barksdale said. “Our economic footprint is big, and we have a louder voice than ever. We’re reaching out (as a business school) to the corporate level, to teach leadership skills to accomplish what Scott Brown has done in his election.”
Despite being comparatively unfamiliar to an Arizona audience, Brown seemed relaxed and comfortable.
“Everything he does is pretty interesting right now,” said Boston Globe reporter Matt Viser, who covers the senator full time. “His election was phenomenal.”