Controversial republican senator Rand Paul is speaking at Howard University today, bringing a slew of hope from the political right about the party’s outreach efforts to African-Americans, and a lot of laughter from the left doubting that it will work.
It is a critical moment for the Republican party; the first major venture onto an HBCU campus just days after the party publically released a report detailing how they must repent of socio-political sins of the past to gain any hope of winning federal elections of the future. Howard is no stranger to Republican guests; it counts Colin Powell and George H.W. Bush among invited guests over the last 30 years.
But this visit will be different; it will be a major speech delivered by a legislator more closely aligned with divisive rhetoric than with political brokering along racial lines.
So how will Howard students react to the visit? Will they be open to dialogue about the GOP working to leverage better understanding of conservative political values? Will they reject the visit as an empty ploy to win black votes?
Both sides deserve credit, Paul for reaching out to speak to a skeptical black audience, and the university for welcoming controversial views and people to give students and surrounding community exposure to the diverse dialogue.