By: Rose Miller, Staff Reporter
President of the UMF College Republicans Jamie Austin was one of several representatives from College Republican groups across the state to attend Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina’s keynote speech at the annual Freedom and Opportunity Luncheon earlier this month in Portland.
The Freedom and Opportunity Luncheon is an annual event sponsored by the Maine Heritage Policy Center for the purpose of extending an award of the same title to a Maine citizen whose life’s work strongly demonstrates the tenets of Freedom and Opportunity. Fiorina delivered the keynote speech following the presentation of the award to this year’s recipient, Richard Dyke.
While Fiorina may have been an obscure name to those who don’t closely follow politics, her recent stand out performances in the first two GOP debates have propelled the candidate into second place according to a new poll released by CNN.
Austin relayed some stand out moments from Fiorina’s speech as well as lent her opinion of the candidate. “She talked a lot about her story which is super inspirational,” said Austin, referencing Fiorina’s rise from secretary at a small real-estate agency to CEO of multi-national corporation Hewlett-Packard (HP).
Although the Heritage Policy Center does not endorse candidates, it was this success story coupled with Fiorina’s business friendly attitudes that made her a natural choice to speak at the event. Her speech was focused on the theme of Freedom and Opportunity according to Director of Civic Engagement Mike Quatrano, who explained that Fiorina’s speech “catered right to our luncheon.”
Austin made note of one element of Fiorina’s speech she felt was important for young voters to hear. “Her references to a balanced federal budget were really important and I know that’s something that’s really important to millennials,” said Austin. “Because, I mean, we’re college students, we have to live on a balanced budget, we can’t just spend more than what we have access to, and that’s something that the federal government does every day.”
In a reception held prior to the luncheon Austin got the opportunity to meet Fiorina. “She was breezing around the room making the rounds. I actually got to shake her hand and tell her how much of an inspiration she is to me, so that was like surreal, very surreal,” said Austin. In describing the reception, Austin mentioned Fiorina was very approachable and was quick to engage the Portland audience. “She was very happy to be in Maine.”
While Austin was the only UMF student in attendance, she was one of several student leaders from college republican groups around the state present. The students in attendance were selected by a raffle put out by the Heritage Policy Center to offer reduced price tickets to young politicians. Although Austin made it clear attendance to this particular event was a huge honor, meeting political figures and collaborating with fellow young conservatives is far from out of the ordinary for Austin or the College Republicans.
“We’re starting the new College Republican Federation of Maine,” said Austin. “We’re all really excited to collaborate and work together in the coming months on the road to 2016.” While she hopes they will be participating in campaigns for the time being they are working to recruit new members and build their brand.
“I think all of us are finding that people have a lot of misconceptions about Republicans in general so we’re really like trying to get our brand out there and show that we’re not just the party of old white guys anymore.”
But Austin doesn’t plan on only collaborating with other Republicans. “I always look forward to working with the College Dems on things,” said Austin, “promoting a healthy political environment on campus is really important regardless of which side you’re on.”