For sophomore Robert Paul, his dad's visit this weekend is pretty different from most other students'.
Eight years ago, Robert Paul learned at the dinner table that his father, Rand, Duke University School of Medicine '88, was retiring from his ophthalmology practice to venture into politics. Rand Paul would go on to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning.
Now a senator, Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will speak on Duke's campus Friday as a guest of Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student organization. The speech will take place at 11:45 a.m. in Sanford 223. Tickets are already sold out.
Robert Paul, a third-generation Blue Devil who said he plans to attend his father's speech, explained that by touring the country with his father, he has developed a better understanding of the tenor of the nation and his father's legacy.
“It helped me prepare for college,” the sophomore said.
In fact, this legacy can be traced back even further to his grandfather, who was also a Duke alumnus. Ron Paul, Duke University School of Medicine '61 and former representative for Texas, served in the House of Representatives for nearly thirty years and was dubbed "Dr. No" for his opposition to any increase in government spending.
When Rand Paul won the Senate election in Kentucky in 2010 and started to work side by side with his father in Congress, he was largely regarded as "standard-bearer" for the 2010 Tea Party revolution, which netted the Republicans control of the House. Although Rand Paul traveled extensively in 2016 and dedicated himself to the effort, his campaign didn't last long in face of the surge of Trump.
“Once [Trump] came in,” Robert Paul said. “It was his game.”
Despite his family’s fame, not many associate Robert with the "Paul" brand on campus.
Robert Paul said that except to a handful of teachers, friends and advisers, he does not discuss his experience openly. Instead, he has chosen to be an observer and listener and enjoys interacting with people from different backgrounds on campus. He added that he thinks Duke's student body is mixed and balanced, allowing conversations from across the political spectrum.
Traveling with his father across the country, Robert Paul has expanded his political horizon. After his father’s initial senatorial victory, for example, Robert attended school in Washington, D.C., learning about American politics at a closer distance. He also worked behind the scenes at the 2015 Republican debate in Cleveland, Ohio.
Paul indicated that his father is looking forward to delivering the speech, adding that Rand Paul "hasn’t enjoyed Duke’s Gothic architecture for some time" and is using the trip as a way to reunite with former professors and medical advisers.
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Unlike his grandfather and father, Paul career trajectory is not toward public service, the sophomore said, although he added that this path is not completely closed to him.
At Duke, Paul is studying mechanical engineering.
“I feel like there are other ways to help the world besides public service,” Paul said.