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Former Speaker visits A&M

Gingrich shares Pope John Paul ll documentary

The Battalion

Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

It's that time of the year again – flowers blooming, birds chirping, temperatures rising and potential Republican presidential hopefuls touring red states. Campaign season has arrived.

Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, visited the George Bush Presidential Library Center Tuesday, introducing his documentary "Nine Days that Changed the World." The film chronicles the late Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit to Poland, then a communist state.

Gingrich said the Pope's visit was the "beginning of the end" of the Soviet empire.

"The emotional and spiritual and moral impact of what [the Pope] did, and the intellectual framework of what he communicated shook the Soviet empire," Gingrich said of the importance of the Pope's nine-day Polish visit. "The Pope's message, ‘Be not afraid,' his message that no government can get between you and God are as relevant in the United States today… as in Poland in 1979."

The event included an introduction from Jim Olson, a professor in the Bush School, and his wife, Meredith. Before coming to College Station, the couple served in the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) clandestine operations.

The Olsons set the tone for the evening by sharing several experiences from their time in Moscow during the height of the Cold War.

"Meredith and I wanted to do our part during the epic confrontation of our generation: the effort to contain and defeat cruel, oppressive and atheistic communism," Olson said.

Eunice Quiroga, a freshman environmental design major in attendance, said the evening had a powerful message of finding oneself through religion.

"In his example leading the movement of solidarity and helping overturn communism, Pope John Paul II really became an example of true freedom," Quiroga said. "Good for [Gingrich] for making these historically motivating films meant to help other people."

While the focus of the evening was on the religious documentary, Gingrich did take time to discuss politics with media representatives.

Gingrich, who many believe will seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012, stopped short of announcing his candidacy.

"By early May, you'll probably hear from me in a positive way," Gingrich said.

On the subject of the national budget, hotly debated among Republican and Democrat lawmakers for several months, Gingrich had harsh words for President Barack Obama.

"I tell college students, ‘you're being set up by Obama to pay the equivalent of buying your parents a home, except there's no home,'" Gingrich said. "You're just going to pay it [in taxes] on interest on the national debt."

Republican efforts to limit the size of the national budget included a 15 percent cut to Federal Pell Grants available to college students, and a $150 million cut to National Science Foundation funding, according to the Chronicle for Higher Education.

Gingrich broke with Republican leadership on the issue.

"If I were [making the decisions], I would increase funding to NIH [National Institutes of Health], but I would increase NSF funding even more," Gingrich said. "If we are going to compete with China and India and solve the problems facing this country, we need to have more science, more technology and very dramatic education reform."

First-term College Station representative Bill Flores, class of ‘76, voted in favor of the budget proposal that included the educational and research cuts. During the 2009-2010 academic year, 7,741 Texas A&M students received $32 million in Federal Pell Grants.

Gingrich said educational reform includes reducing the cost of higher education. He cited electronic textbooks as one way to cut costs.

As both a politician and a Catholic, Gingrich has faced questions about past actions.

While serving as Speaker in the 1990s, Gingrich had an affair with Callista Bisek, a Catholic he later married. Nine years after their 2000 wedding, Gingrich converted to Catholicism. He says conversations with religious leaders and the impact of Bisek in his life are the primary reasons for his conversion.


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