I expected Kasich to be a great political speaker. Unfortunately, he wasn’t all that great, and he was disappointingly unpolitical. I knew he wouldn’t adopt traditional right-wing talking points, or identify himself with the current Republican Party – after all, his claim to fame is being a centrist. But I was hard-pressed to find many talking points in his speech at all. I guess the main takeaway from his lecture is that people, and their opinions, matter. But, c’mon Kasich, any motivational speaker could have said that (and most of them would command far less than forty thousand dollars, to boot.)
I’d expected to be most disappointed with the audience. All of last week I’ve heard rumors of unflattering questions to be directed at Kasich. And I should admit, the audience questions weren’t great – but they were much deeper than the pointless leading questions that I was anticipating. Thankfully, Kasich seemed up to the task of entertaining them. He certainly stepped up his game in the question-answering phase of the program. His answers had political substance, and he revealed his thoughts on the current state of the Republican Party (demagoguery) and its future (bright, assuming that prominent politicians can ditch Trumpism soon). I was, in fact, incredibly relieved to hear Kasich tell the audience that the oval office wasn’t the end-all-be-all of US Politics.
It was a shame that it took Kasich until the end of the night to shine. And it was a shame that the other speakers on the panel didn’t shine as bright as he. Bill Kristol’s frequent interjections seemed to annoy everybody on stage, and Issac Bailey repeated, for a third time in three months, the story of him leaving his predominantly white church in the wake of Trump’s rise. Neither of these two panelists added much to the conversation that Kasich couldn’t, and I’m still scratching my head on why the college allowed people talk over a $40,000 speaker, in the first place. You’ve payed $40,000 for 90 minutes, and you’re really giving 30 of these minutes away?
Despite my various complaints and negative reactions, I actually found the whole affair to be riveting. Although there was a large share of platitudes, and only a small helping of productive political discussion, Kasich was an entertaining speaker who will have campus talking for a while. Overall: it wasn’t bad. And it wasn’t great. But it sure-as-hell wasn’t “a-brand-new-Mercedes-Benz” great.