On Sept. 23, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien spoke to Drake University students in Sheslow auditorium.
The event began with remotely delivered remarks from former Gov. Terry Branstad, who stepped down from his position as U.S. Ambassador to China on Sept. 14. He welcomed O’Brien to the Sheslow stage, saying “Further China policy will continue to be led by people like Ambassador O’Brien.”
In his speech, O’Brien talked about the current global successes of the Trump administration, ranging from the recent historic peace treaty involving the Arab Emirates to “standing up against the Chinese Communist Party” by implementing tariffs and other sanctions with U.S trade.
The event was a moderated question and answer session, with O’Brien taking questions directly from students who submitted them beforehand. Questions covered topics ranging from China, the coronavirus and threats to the national security of the United States.
Regarding COVID-19, O’Brien believes that there was some sort of cover-up on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP.
“When you look at China’s track record, it’s deplorable,” O’Brien stated to the group.
He also accused the World Health Organization of being a “corrupt tool of China.”
O’Brien elaborated on the failed reaction of the CCP, criticizing the act of not allowing CDC scientists to investigate in China when the outbreak first commenced.
“This all reminds me of the Russian coverage of the Chernobyl Nuclear Crisis,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien also talked about the Trump administration’s plan to donate to historically Black colleges and to fund African countries to help create and support African health professionals. After the event, O’Brien was interviewed by a select group of students and reporters.
Student Body President Adam Koch asked O’Brien if the threat of foreign interference in our next election is viable. O’Brien stated that “it’s a real issue” and went on to list off countries such as Iran, Russia, China and others he considered an ever-looming threat.
O’Brien also claimed that fake news on Facebook, from both sides of the aisle, only serves to further divide the nation.
“He didn’t talk like a politician, like other Drake political figures that we’ve had on campus, so that was interesting,” Koch said of O’Brien. “I was surprised by the response I got from him. He appeared to be more concerned with the issue than I first thought he might be.”
Student Tanner Halleran also gave his thoughts on the event.
“From his speech, I was disappointed that he chose to primarily only use the time to speak about Trump. I expected to hear about policy, trade and the United States’ role in the world,” Halleran said. “Instead, I walked away feeling like I had just left a low energy campaign rally.”
Despite the immense amount of polarization in the nation, O’Brien encouraged students to remain optimistic about the future of the United States, emphasizing his belief that every generation is more creative, innovative and hardworking than the previous.
“We’re in a very polarized time and there are forces within our country and outside our country that are trying to sow discord and trying to divide us as a people,” O’Brien said. “We have more in common as a people than what divides us.”