Mercer University celebrated this year’s Founder’s Day with alumnus Erick Erickson speaking at the event held Feb. 13 in Willingham Auditorium.
Erickson is currently the editor-in-chief of RedState.com; the most widely read right-of-center blog on Capitol Hill. He is a Fox News contributor and a former CNN political contributor. Erickson also hosts a radio show on the nation’s most listened to talk radio station, WSB of Atlanta. He graduated from Mercer with his Bachelor of Arts in 1997, majoring in history and political science. He earned his Juris Doctrate at Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law in 2000. Prior to his work at RedState.com, Erickson practiced law and managed political campaigns.
Erickson opened his morning address by quoting the late Ferrol Sams and reflecting on his passing by acknowledging a past Founder’s Day speaker and Mercerian. Erickson spoke in detail about his experiences at Mercer in the 90s.
“Mercer weaves itself into our lives,” Erickson said. “Mercer has always been intertwined with my life.”
Erickson explained how former Mercer president Kirby Godsey used to preach at a church he attended with his grandmother at a young age in rural Louisiana and how he first met professor Dr. Eimad Houry as a young child living in Dubai. Dr. Houry was the son of a grocery store owner who continually kicked out children for playing within the isles. Fifteen years later, Dr. Houry became Erickson’s international politics professor at Mercer. In addition, Erickson met his wife at Mercer through a string of unlikely events.
Erickson explained that the lessons he learned at Mercer helped to shape his worldview and develop his policy towards honesty. While serving on the judicial committee as chief justice, he learned that sometimes doing the right thing is not always the most popular and many times results in lost friendships.
“Sometimes on the road you travel, through this university or not, you have to do things you don’t want to do,” Erickson said.
Erickson’s time at Mercer continues to affect his life. He still meets politicians and commentators who are familiar with Mercer and their appreciation of it has served as a great icebreaker.
“The whisper of the river calls you home and keeps you grounded,” Erickson said. “One day you will listen to the whisper that you’ve heard all your life and realize that it’s not just calling you to your home, it’s calling you here.”
Due to the controversy surrounding his selection, an open discussion with Erickson was scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 13 in Penfield Hall. The SGA sponsored event was a question and answer forum titled, “Civility in Politics.”
During the session, many of Erickson’s controversial views and statements were challenged and questioned by faculty and students alike. Throughout his speech, Erickson continued to restate his belief that conversations are important and no one group should have control over who should speak.
He went on to say that he now recognizes the impact that his statements have had on people, particularly his family. His past remarks calling the Democratic National Convention “the vagina monologues” was widely responded to on Twitter. He reflected that the experience was like a light coming on; he realized “you are more than you think you are.”
During the session, Mercer student Joshua Whitfield asked Erickson how he would handle respectively criticizing someone without resorting the insults and slanders.
“It’s hard in the modern age to have a conversation,” Erickson said. “Modern conversations have lost the individual personality now that people are relying on ‘140 characters or less’ to convey messages.”
Erickson expressed that having civil debate is difficult but possible. He said that many times “the people on the other side tend to be good people.”
His views on women and feminism were challenged as he expressed his belief that both men and women should have the right to exclude members of the opposite gender from their sporting events and activities if they choose to do so. Erickson explained that he has the stereotypical view of feminists not because they are all a mold of the stereotype, but because he believes that every feminist he has met conformed to the mold.
Following the event, Erickson tweeted, “I am proud of myself for pointing out to the Women and Gender Studies students that their major has no real world value.”
The next day, Erickson posted on RedState.com about his experience at Mercer and that he enjoyed returning to his Alma Mater. In addition, he addressed the controversy surrounding his invitation to speak at the event.
Through both RedState.com and Twitter, Erickson claimed he was slightly disappointed with the lack of protests and rumored walkouts.
According to RedState.com, Erickson said, “We had the forum because a small group of liberal mostly female professors and a handful of students decided they could be the arbiters of which alumnus was an acceptable Founders Day speaker. It was abundantly obvious from their criticisms that while they hid behind some of my statements, they really disliked my worldview as a prominent Christian evangelical conservative.”
Erickson answered a variety of questions from both students and faculty. One topic in particular addressed discrimination based on gender versus race. Erickson was clear in his response that he does not consider they two interchangeable due to our country’s history.
According to RedState.com, “A student who was voluntarily subjecting herself to the women and gender studies program stood up and told me it was a debatable position that fewer people had died in the name of women’s rights,” Erickson said. “It was the one moment that left me speechless.”
Erickson closed the discussion by thanking Mercer for inviting him to speak at the morning celebration and participate in the “Civility in Politics” session.
“I’m a pessimist on civility in politics but I also think the conversations you have can be polite and respectful, like we’ve done here,” Erickson said. “It’s a matter of stepping outside to a degree, of your comfort zone or your basic knowledge, and learning who the person on the other side is, not just who you think they are.”