Being a longtime politician, Newt Gingrich knews how to get the crowd involved.
“Fort Hays may be the most understudied educational achievement in America,” Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Thursday evening.
“I will work pretty hard to make that no longer true,” he said. “Between your online program, the way you’ve kept tuition down, and the way that you reach across the world, I think almost nobody realizes what kind of an impact Fort Hays is making, and the kind of potential growth it has over the next 10 years. This is truly a remarkable institution.”
Gingrich spoke to a full house and a receptive crowd at the Keith Sebelius Lecture Series at FHSU.
In the final lecture of the 2014-15 series, Gingrich had a proactive approach to technology and was optimistic about America’s strategic future with that technology.
The prison guards of the past have an investment in keeping things the same, and the pioneers have to fight against that, he said.
One example would be pioneers such as the Wright brothers inventing airplane flight while institutions backed the Smithsonian catapult, which failed. Gingrich believes those lessons apply to today and the issues facing America.
“Young people will be more creative in rethinking government,” because of technology, he said.
He spoke of the changes in education with online classes and Khan Academy, an online tutorial offered free of charge on a wide range of subjects.
Gingrich believes technological innovation needs to be applied to government.
The Pentagon, he said, was built in 1943 during World War II, during the age of typewriters and carbon paper, and needs to be scrapped.
“We have an entire federal bureaucracy operating at the pace of manual typewriters,” he said.
He mentioned the errors of the Internal Revenue Service as another example of a bureaucracy using outdated technology.
“You don’t reform the Veterans Administration, the Pentagon, the IRS, you replace it,” Gingrich said.
The Federal Drug Administration is another example of an outdated bureaucracy.
He shared words of wisdom regarding international relations and keeping America safe, particularly from KGB-trained Vladimir Putin, who he believes is underrated.
“He’s very dangerous,” he said. A part of that danger is the fact that Russia has a huge amount of nuclear weapons.
Also of grave concern are terrorist organizations, Gingrich said.
In comments popular with the crowd, Gingrich believes any person caught recruiting here for a jihadist organization should be tried for treason.
As far as engaging young people today with politics, he believes most are sorting out their own lives. But as they grow older, they’ll become more interested.
His guess was between 5 percent to 15 percent of the student population is deeply interested in politics, but that would change.
“When they’re old enough to have their own history, they start paying attention to history,” at about age 40, Gingrich said.
He mentioned college students didn’t become interested in Vietnam until the draft.
“Overnight, college students cared about the war,” he said. “They hadn’t cared about the war until the draft affected them.”
When Gingrich first started his career in politics, he met Keith Sebelius and told the crowd he admired him greatly.
“He cared about representing his state,” Gingrich said.
As a child, Gingrich lived in Kansas when his dad was assigned to Fort Riley, where they lived for three years. They were frequent visitors to the Manhattan Zoo.
He admitted to stopping at the Manhattan Zoo on his way to Hays.
At a vigorous 71 years old, Gingrich had a final word of advice in response to a question from the audience.
“Be open to learning your entire life,” he said.