Former governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson spoke to students and visitors in Phillips Auditorium Tuesday evening.
Johnson’s visit was part of his Live Free Tour, a series of rallies hosted by college campuses across the United States and aimed at promoting economic and personal liberty. Hillsdale College’s Classical Liberal Organization sponsored the event.
Johnson’s address included a mixture of life advice and policy prescriptions.
“Life is a journey, not a destination,” he said. “Enjoy the ride.”
Johnson encouraged audience members to “determine what your passion is” and “take your expertise and apply it entrepreneurially.”
His positions on economic and social issues were those shared by the Libertarian Party as a whole, emphasizing the value of limited government and personal liberty.
Johnson recommended abolishing the Federal Department of Education, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Reserve Bank. He also advocated replacing both the corporate and income tax with a single fair tax.
Johnson told the audience that the Social Security crisis was solvable through means testing and raising the retirement age. He acknowledged the need for a healthcare safety net, but argued that overall such entitlement programs should be privatized.
The governor spent a good part of his address arguing for decriminalizing marijuana.
“I have smoked marijuana,” he said. “What I found marijuana to be was a much safer alternative to alcohol.”
Concerning abortion, Johnson said the issue belongs with the woman. During the question and answer section in which a student probed him to defend his view, he asked the audience for policy prescriptions that would lessen abortion rates without criminalizing a substantial number of women.
In a brief discussion of the Second Amendment, Johnson said the best way to prevent another Columbine was mandating that all teachers carry handguns. Similarly, he recommended arming domestic airline pilots. The governor said he plans to obtain his own concealed handgun license soon.
Throughout the speech, Johnson often told stories about his past.
In college, he worked as a door-to-door handyman and later grew his business into one of the largest construction firms in the state. Johnson served as
Republican governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. During his term, he signed 750 vetoes – a record that earned him the nickname “Governor Veto.”
As Libertarian presidential candidate, Johnson received 1,225,000 votes, achieving his goal of capturing approximately 1 percent of the popular vote and making him the most successful of all Libertarian presidential candidates in that regard.
Johnson maintains that most Americans are classical liberals, a political position he defines as “being fiscally responsible and socially respecting.” The governor embraced the classical liberal creed, saying, “I don’t care what you do with your life as long as what you do doesn’t adversely affect my life.”
Outside of politics, Johnson is an avid athlete. He climbed the highest peaks on four of the continents, including Mount Everest. He also completed the Bataan Memorial Death March, a 25-mile desert run in combat boots while wearing a 35-pound backpack. Johnson regularly competes in ski contests and triathlons as well.
Tuesday’s rally received generous support from the audience. At least one listener carried several “Gary Johnson” campaign posters. After the speech, supporters joined Johnson and his vice presidential running mate Judge Jim Gray, who also spoke at Hillsdale, for a post-rally party at Johnny T’s.
Classical Liberal Organization President junior Schuyler Dugle was happy with Johnson’s presentation.
“Governor Johnson’s speech was less policy-oriented than I was expecting, but he did a great job,” Dugle said. “Although not everyone agreed with everything Judge Gray or Governor Johnson said, I think the event went a long way to reduce some stigmas against Libertarians.”