Trump Jr. cheers free market in GCU appearance

Donald Trump Jr. (left), Kimberly Guilfoyle and Charlie Kirk speak at the Culture War event Monday night in Antelope Gymnasium. 

By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau

Donald Trump Jr. touted free market capitalism, smaller government and his father, President Donald Trump, during a “Culture War” rally on Monday night at Grand Canyon University’s Antelope Gymnasium.

An estimated crowd of 1,300 set an attendance record for campus events on Turning Point USA’s nationwide tour of universities, according to student leaders of GCU’s Turning Point chapter. Others waited in a long line outside the doors but were turned away because the venue was full.

Trump came to the stage to chants of “USA, USA” and sat in one of three chairs, one for political analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle and the other for conservative commentator and Turning Point USA founder, Charlie Kirk. Founded in 2012, “the organization’s mission is to identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government,” according to its website.

In these times of entrenched partisanship, the trio encouraged those in attendance to give voice to what they believe. Trump, sporting his signature slicked-back hair and beard, was very quickly in full throat.

“I’m not exactly known for my subtlety,” said Trump, teasing his upcoming book, “Triggered.” “There are people who do nuance well, and sometimes you need a sledgehammer.”

He touted a list of economic triumphs of the presidency, including record low unemployment, and dismissed efforts to investigate his father, who faces an impeachment inquiry, as one in a long agenda of the “far left” and “biased media.”

“It’s OK. I’m one of the Trump team,” he said. “We like to fight.”

Trump offered one of the anecdotes from his book to illustrate the value of free markets and capitalism.

He remembers visiting Czechoslovakia, the homeland of his grandfather, at age 5. During a Customs Administration check, he was told to remove his jean jacket with a patch of the stars and stripes. He saw the restrictions and devastation in a country then ruled by communism.

“I’ve actually waited in those bread lines. I’ve seen what that mentality, that form of government, can do to good, smart, intelligent, hard-working people when there is zero incentive to do anything beyond the bare minimum,” he said. “Man, it was an important lesson for me …”

He sees the rise of the ideas of larger government here but wonders why no one comes forward from those countries “to vouch for it.” His own grandfather encouraged them to prize American freedom.

GCU, given its history, offered an ideal setting for a discussion on free market principles and limited government. The University has been able to invest $1.5 billion into academic infrastructure over the past 11 years by relying on initial capital from the public markets -- rather than state taxpayer funds -- to grow the University.

"We firmly support free market and limited government principles as well as traditional American values that flow from our biblical foundation as a Christian university," GCU President Brian Mueller said. "This university exists because of free market principles.

"We are also very committed to supporting the immigrant and disadvantaged populations that surround our university and have put in place a five-point plan to raise their level of prosperity through the creation of jobs on and off campus, increased safety, improved home values and support of K-12 education. We believe the free market system is the best option to create equal opportunity for the most people in such an environment."

Trump said the economic lives of many American groups, especially minorities, have improved in the past three years.

“Those people are doing better under these policies because you have someone initiating polices who has actually done these things in practice, not just done it in theory,” he said.

And he touted his father’s attempts to reach across the partisan divide to work on prison reform and programs for military veterans. But the president knew it would be a fight.

“He knew how vicious it would get. The establishment on both sides, they aren’t going to go easy,” he said.

His points often were interrupted by cheers from the big crowd.

“Our goal was to have a record crowd for a non-national campus event, and we’ve been working on it since June,” said Didrik Thordarson, secretary of GCU’s Turning Point chapter, who was thrilled with the message. “A big one was free markets. It is so integral to our society, and when we take it for granted our society is in danger.”

Some students even lured their friends who are Democrats to the event.

Rebekah Gross, a senior, calls herself a “fan girl of Charlie Kirk,” and asked friend Anaid DeBose to give him a listen. She agreed.

“I like to listen to both sides,” DeBose said. “They made some good points about women empowerment and the California poverty situation.”

Guilfoyle told the crowd that “women have never been more powerful” in the U.S. and that far more unites people than divides them.

“Each of you has the power to use your voice to stand up for what you believe in,” she said.

Kirk led off the evening by making the case that America is “the greatest country to exist.” Its belief in the free market is a big reason, he said, not big government that takes money away from people.

“Just because someone gets rich doesn’t mean someone gets poor,” he said. “No one has a right to other people’s stuff.”

He encouraged a dismissal of a victim mentality instead of individual responsibility. “The best way to change the world is to change yourself.”

The trio took questions from the audience, dominated by queries on the president’s critics, including Joe Biden and his son Hunter, Taylor Swift and Mitt Romney.

But the last question by Christian Merante, an Arizona State University student, was a fitting ending. He asked for a selfie with Trump to send to his mom. “I’m so happy I got it,” he said afterward. “But I really wanted to learn about his ideas without the media filter.”

He unleashed a crowd to the stage taking photographs.

Jacob Root, president of GCU’s Turning Point chapter, gave up his chance when a fellow student begged him to get Trump’s autograph on a hat.

“I sacrificed my selfie for her,” he said.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


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