To write the biggest speech of his career, Donald Trump turned to a trusted aide—Duke graduate Stephen Miller.
Miller, a senior policy advisor to Trump, wrote Trump’s keynote speech on the final night of the Republican National Convention. The speech echoed themes—including the urgency of securing America’s borders and the need to forgo political correctness—that have been cornerstones of Miller’s political philosophy dating back to his time on campus.
“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” Trump said as he began his 75-minute address. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. I will restore law and order to our country. Believe me. Believe me.”
The speech was instantly polarizing, drawing both high praise and harsh criticism. But attention is nothing new for Miller, Trinity '07, who has been unafraid to wade into controversy since his time at Duke.
Miller did not respond to requests for comment via LinkedIn and the press office of the Trump campaign. A representative from the Duke Alumni Association said the office has no contact information for Miller, noting that the office relies on self-reported information.
A firebrand columnist
Miller—who introduces Trump at many of his rallies—wrote 20 columns for The Chronicle, published in 2006 and 2007, which reveal a student confident in his political ideology with a penchant for strong rhetoric.
“We are told not to speak truthfully or even clearly, but instead in a fashion that is politically correct,” Miller wrote in his final column, using language that would be right at home in a Trump speech. “These politically correct dictates are anathema to American values.”
In addition to decrying political correctness, Miller also pushed for a stronger defense against terrorism and better border control in his early columns—both of which are core talking points for the Trump campaign.
“Islamic terrorists have declared holy war on the United States,” he wrote in “Unpatriotic Dissent." “They have declared a death sentence on every man, woman and child living in this country.”
In 9.11.01, he mourned the lack of security at our airports, borders and ports, asking, “Why isn't the murder of 3,000 people enough to shake us out of our apathy?”
Miller also became the first national coordinator of the Terrorism Awareness Project, an initiative created in 2007 to make “students aware of the Islamic jihad and the terrorist threat, and to mobilize support for the defense of America and the civilization of the West,” according to an archived version of the organization’s website.
The TAP promoted an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” on college campuses across the country and ran an advertisement titled “What Americans Need to Know About Jihad” in a number of campus newspapers, including The Chronicle. Student publications at several colleges declined to run the advertisement, however, and Miller appeared on "Fox and Friends" to discuss TAP and the advertisement.
“How are we going to win a war on terror if we can’t even talk about the enemy?” Miller asked during his appearance on the show. “The papers are supposed to be the bastion for free speech on this campuses, and they’re saying, ‘We’ll take political advertisements, unless of course they’re about radical Islam, in which case we want to censor that.’”
Prior to joining the Trump team in January, Miller spent seven years as a communications and speech writing adviser to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, and before that, he worked with former Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann. A staunch conservative, Sessions led efforts to kill the bipartisan deal on immigration reform when it came to the House in 2014. Miller wrote Sessions’ handbook on the subject.