A conservative speaker by the name of Will Witt visited Fort Lewis College on Sept. 19 in Noble 130 with the intention to discuss free speech and other topics on college campuses.
At his speech, Witt received an audience who listened while he discussed a wide variety of issues concerning climate change, abortion, religion, standing up for one’s beliefs, and free speech, with a question-and-answer portion.
In regards to the topic of climate change, he referenced the climate strike occurring across the country on Sept. 20, and how the government in unable to fix the continual consequences of the changing climate but rather reform can come from free market companies.
“Even if you do believe in climate change, these people protesting today, they're protesting for the government to do something,” Witt said.
Witt said that the free market, rather than the government, can help fix climate change, given its lack of bureaucratic measures and its ability to implement company changes to put aid the population.
Witt also addressed the idea of “toxic masculinity,” a term in which Witt said is false and used to demonize males, which inadvertently hurts women as well.
Overall, Witt focuses his speeches towards college students because they are the future of America and his goal is to motivate and inspire them to create a better future, he said.
“They are the next generation of people,” Witt said in a later interview. “This next generation needs to understand what it truly means to be American, so they can succeed in America when they actually get out of college. I want young people who go to FLC to come and hear my message and feel inspired and motivated by it.”
Witt, a Colorado native, focuses his influence with organizations such as Turning Point USA and PragerU.
According to Witt, college campuses across the nation silence conservative voices that speak out against college’s imposed doctrines.
“Conservative voices aren't being heard,” Witt said. “When conservative speakers, like myself, go to campuses, they get shut down and ostracized on their campuses.”
However, some students such as Savanna Shady, a first-semester freshman, believe that FLC already provides a safe environment for all viewpoints.
“I feel like people are pretty open with their opinions,” Shady said. “I don't think it would be super hard to do that, to speak out and say what you want to say.”
Zane Goodell, a senior and the president of the Fort Libertarians club, which hosted the event, explained the importance of bringing a conservative speaker to campus.
“I don't agree with everything that Will Witt says, but I'm just glad that we're able to get a conservative voice on campus, given that this campus has quite a left lean,” Goodell said. “Campuses are places for dialogue, and it's a good place to get exposed to different point of views. Heck you might agree with some of them, you might not agree with some of them.”
Witt has previously been targeted through various news outlets’ articles due to a video in which he states rape is funny. In response to allegations like these, Witt attributes it to his personal immaturity that comes with younger age.
“As a young person, we all say stupid things,” Witt said. “That's about it. That was years ago, before I was in the political world where I am now, and it was a stupid thing to say. We should be looking at people's ideas and morals now instead of looking at something that someone did years ago when they were immature.”
Naomi Dobbs, the event coordinator in charge of Witt’s visit to Durango, explained that his speaking at FLC was not school-sponsored but sponsored by active adults in the community through the La Plata County Liberty Coalition.
“This college is a big part of our community, and it has an important presence,” Dobbs said. “If there's only one voice on this campus, that's not good for our community. We need to have all voices, and his voice and the kinds of statements that he made are somewhat underrepresented in FLC.”
Witt during his speech, photo credited to Jedekiah Coy
Overall, Witt’s presence on campus was intended to introduce a different way of thinking to students of all ideologies, Goodell said.
“We don't just want one branch of thought,” Goodell said.
To students who hold ideologies that differ from Witt’s, he asks for tolerance of all ideas, and applies this idea to both sides of the spectrum. Witt explains the difference between challenging opposing views, rather than silencing them.
“That's the best way to fix the climate on your campus, and make it so that all voices are heard,” Witt said.
During his time on campus, Witt interviewed a variety of FLC students about common misconceptions about agriculture, such as organic foods, GMO’s, and where one’s food comes from. Witt presented a self-produced video featuring these interviews to highlight the importance of agriculture at the annual La Plata County Farm Bureau dinner on Sept. 20.