Last Thursday, Michael Powell ’85, rector of the College and former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced his endorsement of Sen. John McCain for the presidency.
p. “I believe deeply in supporting people of principle who have the strengths of their convictions,” Powell said. “John McCain has always been guided first by what is in the best interest of the United States … I think Sen. McCain has the experience and the character to serve as Commander-in-Chief and to restore America’s place in the world.”
p. In addition to McCain’s experience with national security, Powell also pointed to the Senator’s strength regarding the economy, an issue which has recently taken the lead on the campaign trail.
p. “I believe Sen. McCain has always had a superb grasp of economic issues and understands what needs to be done to stabilize the economy but more importantly to steer the new economy in a direction that will provide opportunity, prosperity and economic security to all Americans,” Powell said.
p. The College’s response revealed differing opinions regarding the rector’s decision to publicly support a presidential nominee. Stephen Salvato ’10, chair of the College Republicans, was not particularly concerned by the endorsement.
p. “Powell’s decision to endorse McCain is fine by me,” he said. “Obviously, he is allowed to endorse whomever he wants and I see no reason to take issue with his decision.”
p. Salvato was quick to add that Powell’s views are not necessarily reflective of the views of the majority of Republicans on campus.
p. The Young Democrats expressed disapproval of Powell’s decision.
p. “I think it is a little inappropriate for Powell to take such a stance, merely due to the fact that he is a representative for the College and needs to think about what is in the best interest of the College,” Liz Pedraja ’09, president of the organization, said. “Associating the College with any candidate could be potentially damaging.”
Both Salvato and Pedraja pointed out that neither the College Republicans nor the Young Democrats are allowed to publicly support any candidate running for office.
p. Professor John Gilmour, who has taught in the government department for the past 12 years, weighed in on the debate. “I think the reason Powell [endorsed McCain] is not because he is the rector at William and Mary, but because he was the former chairman of the FCC,” Gilmour said. “Powell’s not a really important member, but a somewhat important member of the Republican Party.”
p. Gilmour expressed doubt that Powell’s decision could be detrimental to the College.
p. “I can’t think of how [the endorsement] would have an effect. If Mitt [Romney] won and was really petty, I guess we could be denied grant money from the National Science Foundation. But that is practically inconceivable,” Gilmour said. “I believe it’s helpful for the College to have people like Powell, who are strong public figures and strong supporters of the College.”
p. Powell expressed the possible benefits that the College would enjoy via a McCain presidency. “I think Sen. McCain understands the importance that the nation has a first-class higher education system,” he said. “I know he is concerned about the rising costs of education and the need to ensure everyone has an opportunity to go to college regardless of their socio-economic situation. I plan to be a voice on his team, advocating a redoubled commitment to higher education.”
__Editor’s Note: This article was edited Feb. 7.__