In front of family and students, B.J. Lawson was presented with the Walter B. Jones Campus Defender of Freedom Award Monday night in Carr Building. The award is an honor given annually to an individual who embodies the principles of the Republican party.
Lawson, Engineering '96 and Med '00, was chosen as this year's recipient for his political activism in the past few years. In 2008, Lawson ran as the Republican candidate for North Carolina's 4th district representative and lost to Democratic incumbent David Price.
"I'm delighted with your selection.... He is a young man who, like yourselves, is the future of this country." Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said to the selection committee, which included Duke College Republicans.
The award is named for Jones, the Libertarian-leaning Congressman famous for espousing "freedom fries" in 2003 and for taking a strong stance against the administration of former president George W. Bush. Jones presents the award every year.
After the presentation of the award, Jones and Lawson had an informal question-and-answer session. The first topic of discussion was the future of the Republican party.
Jones said both the Republican and Democratic parties had too many obligations to financial supporters rather than their constituents. He called for the "American people to take back finance" instead of having special interest groups funding political parties.
Lawson said he agreed with Jones in wanting to give the people more influence in politics.
"The only hope I see for the Republican party is starting at the grassroots," Lawson said. "All it takes is for people to step up and get involved-go to precinct meetings." He added that he hopes the party would break away from the old leadership represented at the Republican National Convention.
Both Lawson and Jones said that in order for the Republican party to survive, it must appeal to a more diverse base of voters.
"The Republican party needs to have a face that can be seen and identified with by people of all races," Jones said. "The future of the Republic party lies in being able to relate to the average working family."
The event's attendees also discussed Duke for Endowment Transparency, a movement headed by Duke Democrats and various other student groups pushing for public disclosure of the University's finances, including donations and investments.
Members of Duke College Republicans said they disagree with the goals of the movement and instead believe that budget transparency ought to be the priority.
"We are trying to phrase our opposition right now," said sophomore Justin Robinette, incoming president of Duke College Republicans. "Right now, it seems like what we ought to be concerned with is how Duke is spending its money.... It seems to me that we should do budget transparency first."
Jones, however, said he did not find fault with the Duke for Endowment Transparency movement and said he supports the idea of openness.
"I will always come down on the side of integrity and honesty," Jones said. "To me, sunshine is the answer."
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