Ridge speaks to Gannon community


Michael Guido, News Editor

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge spoke via Zoom to a group of Gannon students and faculty Wednesday, Jan. 27.

The event, the first one held since students returned to campus, kicks off a list of speakers and events that will be hosted by the School of Public Service & Global Affairs over the course of the spring semester.

Ridge, who also served as Erie’s U.S. congressman and governor of Pennsylvania, was introduced by President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., and Jeff Bloodworth, Ph.D., co-director of PSGA.

In his opening remarks, Taylor said that Ridge was the guest they were happy to have, as he was the man who was going to have “the right heart and the ability to really handle the challenging issues with care and frankness and authenticity.”

Bloodworth said in his opening remarks that Ridge is “deeply respected on both sides of the aisle and has now assumed the role, I would argue, of statesman.”

Ridge, who was not only a Vietnam War veteran, but also former President George W. Bush’s first secretary of Homeland Security, spent most of the hour talking about a variety of issues, including national security, election integrity, radicalization, bipartisanship, civility and the requirements of good leadership.

At the onset of his remarks, Ridge spoke about his thoughts regarding the 2020 presidential election, listing his thoughts into categories he deemed to be “good news, contrast and bad news, and a look ahead.”

Ridge listed high voter turnout as being good, though he said he had mixed feelings, as he was disappointed that one-third of the eligible electorate did not vote.

However, Ridge also said he was proud of people who worked in county elections offices across the country, saying that people needed to “tip their hats to the men and women at the local level who take that job seriously of counting those votes.”

Ridge also highlighted other portions of the election that were of interest to him, such as how the world perceived us in the midst of the election, the absence of the second debate, and what it meant to be elected to the “highest office in the land.”

Ridge also touched on the insurrection that took place at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, speaking with great anger and disappointment of the defacing of a core American institution.

After giving his remarks, Ridge was asked a series of questions posed by Gannon students and faculty and relayed by Bloodworth.

Questions were asked about the future of the Republican Party, the constitutionality of impeaching a former president and how the Department of Homeland Security would deal with ongoing domestic terrorist threats.

Many students who were able to witness the event came away impressed and satisfied.

Josh Staley, a junior political science major, said that while he didn’t agree with Ridge on ideology, he was still happy to have heard from him.

“I think it’s important that Gannon has speakers like Secretary Ridge,” Staley said. “The times we are living in can be confusing and off putting, so having someone with the reputation of Secretary Ridge is really important.”

Anthony DiFonzo, a junior criminal justice major, said he enjoyed hearing what Ridge had to say.

“He had a lot of amazing points that were very understanding of both political parties,” DiFonzo said. “It was nice to see what a true politician looks like.”

DiFonzo said further that he believed having more speakers and politicians with the “drive and love” that Ridge exhibited would entice him to attend more events.

As for PSGA, the continuation of events and guest speakers will be a focal point of the spring 2021 semester.

PSGA will continue its “Racial Justice: Be the Change” lecture series, with the next event being a Zoom call at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, featuring Samantha Fuentes, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Politics & Pints will also be returning, kicking off at 7 p.m. Thursday with a focus on recapping the 2020 presidential election.

The event will feature political operatives EJ Fyke and Martha Nwachukwu, as well as former congressional candidate Kristy Gnibus.

Other events this semester will feature prominent names, including Erie Mayor Joe Schember and Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper.

Students interested in finding out more should contact Bloodworth at [email protected]


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