ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY JAKE BULLINGTON
Two hundred Drake students and community members made their way to Olmsted Center Friday evening to hear famed neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speak. The event, titled #AllVotesMatter, was hosted by BET, and viewers were encouraged to submit questions for Carson via Instagram and Twitter.
Carson was asked questions on issues ranging from the Flint water crisis, education improvements and criticisms of his religion.
Junior Linnea Bellomo was in attendance, which helped her learn more about Carson’s candidacy.
“He talked about a lot of different policies that I had no idea about, like the corporate taxes that were in international bounds. I had no idea that (those policies) existed, along with other policies that he talked about,” Bellomo said. “I’m still weighing my options, but I definitely learned a lot more about him. I knew he was a neurosurgeon, but I didn’t know specific details about his background and how he grew up. I think that contributed to my perspective of him.”
The event partnered with Vote America Now, an organization that focuses on educating and motivating the millennial generation to go to the polls. President of VAN, Chris Prudhomme, posed questions to Carson. New Orleans-based rapper Dee-1, also known as David Augustine Jr., contributed to the conversation by offering follow-ups and sharing his own perspective.
Dee-1 challenged Carson to address why he is perceived as “unrelatable” and “unconnected” with the black community, saying some even refer to Carson as a “sellout.”
Carson’s answer drew laughter from the crowd. “I don’t go to discos (and other things) people think are really cool,” Carson said.
Carson frequently used anectodes to answer questions, such as when he touted his reading room program, through which Carson and his wife established places for underprivileged children to enjoy reading books.
However, the event left some audience members wanting more substance from Carson.
“(He) seemed very evasive on the questions on education, healthcare policy and things that directly engage the conversation for the 2016 election,” senior Josh Duden said.
The event lasted about 45 minutes and contributed to the growing trend at Drake of networks engaging digitally to bring their audiences to the candidates.
“I think it’s a really cool opportunity that candidates get to come, both Democrat and Republican, and we can really familiarize ourselves with each respective candidate, and really understand what’s going on,” Bellomo said.
“Events like this benefit not only Drake’s community, but it benefits the community surrounding it, for the state of Iowa as well. We’re incredibly lucky to have candidates,” Duden said. “Not only by making us more educated voters, but allowing us to truthfully engage, recognize the issues and make a really educated vote as we move forward, which I don’t think many people have the opportunity to do across the country.”
Drake’s campus will remain a political hotbed in the final week before the Iowa caucuses. All three Democratic presidential candidates will be on campus in Sheslow Auditorium on Monday for a televised town hall on CNN, and Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul will make his third stop at Drake on Thursday.