To hundreds of students on a rainy Wednesday night, former Governor of Ohio John Kasich made the case for individuals across the country to take action on issues that matter to them, rather than waiting for politicians in Washington to affect change.
“I don’t care that much about politics,” Kasich, 67, said, who spent four years as a member of the Ohio Senate, 18 years as a Representative for Ohio’s 12th district and eight years as Governor of Ohio. “What I care about is what’s happening in my community.”
Kasich’s address, titled “It’s Up to Us: Ten Little Ways We Can All Bring About Big Change,” came weeks after he released his latest book of the same name. The event was part of the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions’ John Hazen White Sr. lecture series.
Kasich has been an outspoken conservative voice against President Trump ever since he vied for the Republican nomination in 2016. At Wednesday’s event, Kasich turned his attention toward advocating for bipartisanship as the 2020 presidential race heats up.
“The Republican party has been my vehicle, not my master,” Kasich said. “But I am grateful to the party for giving me the chance to serve,” he affirmed before quickly adding, “I am still a Republican.”
Kasich told the audience about his experiences as a young college graduate, when he spent time working in offices of both Democratic and Republican party members. He said those jobs helped equip him with skills to listen to those with whom he disagrees.
“We do not need to be fighting and bickering with each other,” he said. “I don’t think that most people want to live in conflict.”
Kasich compelled students to interact with people who hold differing points of view. “Open your minds,” he said, “and don’t belittle people that don’t agree with you.”
During the event, Kasich also spoke at length about the importance of young activists across the country and around the globe.
“The Parkland students changed everything,” Kasich said of the gun-control advocacy group Never Again MSD led by survivors of the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He credited the student-led group with improving gun control policy in the state of Florida. “They were marching, and they were not going to take no for an answer,” Kasich added.
Kasich also celebrated the work of Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old from Sweden who founded the Youth Strike for Climate movement and who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in March for her work on environmental justice. “She started a global movement,” he said.
Kasich denounced those who have slung criticism and “viciously attacked” the likes of Thunberg and the Parkland Students for their activism.
During an audience question and answer, Kasich addressed the topic of impeachment.
“What the president did on that call was horrific,” Kasich said of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. “I don’t understand Republicans who are not even willing to say that what Trump did was wrong.”
Kasich affirmed that he wanted all the facts in front of him before commenting further on the topic of impeachment. “I want a full, complete, open inquiry,” he said.
Kasich remains optimistic about the future. “I believe that every single person is special,” he said. “We’ll join together and fix this country.”