It was the chance of a lifetime. The Twin Cities of Minnesota were hosting the political equivalent of the Olympics, and there to take it all in were the “Liberty Delegates.” Nine Liberty students and four faculty members attended the Republican National Convention in September. The students were hand-selected by Dr. George Buzzy, Dean of the School of Government at Liberty, and Dr. Stephen Witham. Patricia Witham and Dr. Kahlib Fischer, an associate professor in the School of Business, also attended the convention.
“I wanted a cross-section of students to take in the experience,” Buzzy said. “Of course we had government majors and minors, but it was the mix of viewpoints — business, communications — that made the trip meaningful.”
The Liberty group, whose trip was made possible by donations secured by LU Development Manager Roy Jones, enjoyed interactions that could only happen in a high-profile environment.
The Virginia delegation hosted a breakfast with Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell. Fischer said, “McDonnell is a Regent alum like myself, and I helped him campaign when he ran for attorney general. So it was good to get reacquainted with him.”
Junior government major Sarah Blanzy enjoyed hearing political commentator Kelly Ann Conway speak at the breakfast.
“She had such a great personality and wit. She was fun to meet,” Blanzy said of Conway, who is a pollster and does regular interviews with FoxNews and CNN.
Despite the size of the convention — estimated crowds of 50,000 each night — friends of Liberty University were not hard to find.
Brett O’Donnell, former debate coach for Liberty’s award-winning team, was working as McCain’s chief communications director. Liberty students (some former debaters) were able to speak with O’Donnell, who gave an in-depth look at the McCain campaign.
Charles Judd was another surprise. Judd, a senior manager on the McCain staff, was the original director of the Moral Majority under the late Dr. Jerry Falwell.
Female Liberty students were interviewed for “Glamour” magazine; Blanzy did an indepth interview with a reporter from Italy; and both Blanzy and senior Grace Woodson were interviewed for an MTV special called “McCain Decoded.”
Senior government major Jeremy Lemon said the trip provided a window into a future career.
“I love politics, and this (trip) was an opportunity for me to see firsthand the procedure … things that you would not see by just watching television.”
Yet, even for junior Scott MacDonald, who is a Worship major, the trip was time well spent.
“It doesn’t matter what career you’re in, understanding the issues, where you stand and how the political process works is extremely important … because it’s a terrible testimony of a Christian to not understand the government,” he said. “We need to apply Biblical principles to the issues.”
The students who attended the convention included: James Kimmey, Matthew McCain, Grace Woodson, Chelsey Fortin, Sarah Blanzy, Kelly Cook, Scott MacDonald, Jeremy Lemon, and Jennifer Schmidt.