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Mary Kilpatrick

Newt Gingrich strolled into the Richardson Building Friday afternoon apologetic and on point. His campaign was running a little late, he told the crowd of 200, and he was sorry for the wait.

Standing behind a navy podium placard reading, “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less,” he launched into a speech about the state of the American economy.

“This is the worst economy since the Great Depression, period,” Gingrich said. “There’s no way you can say we’re only at 8.3 percent [unemployment], which is true by the way for a practical reason: 2.5 percent of the people looking for jobs when [President Barack] Obama got elected have left. They’ve dropped out. If we had the same size work force Obama had in January of 2009, the unemployment rate would be 10.8 percent.”

Gingrich said his Tulane education greatly influenced, and shaped his career.

“To live in New Orleans justifies coming to Tulane,” Gingrich said. “The culture, the history the sense of life that the city has is really worth being here, because it’s so different. That’s the first thing. Second, I had very good professors. I had one particular professor who taught economic history, and I was not a good writer. I’ve now written 24 [or] 25 books and 13 New York Times best sellers, and I don’t say that in passing. This is the Tulane experience. I arrive, I can’t write. I leave, I write New York Times bestsellers.”

Gingrich identified himself as a natural iconoclast, citing a class he taught at Tulane about the year 2000 more than 30 years ago.

“I’m here to tell you that I’m a visionary,” Gingrich said. “I actually taught a course at Tulane on the year 2000, so I’ve always been a visionary. That tells you my age that in the year 2000 was a long way off. But I did it because I’m fascinated, for your generation, What’s the right time horizon for you? What should you think about?”

As Gingrich spoke, his daughters Jackie Gingrich Cushman and Kathy Gingrich Lubbers, sat in the first row, listening attentively. At times, Cushman recorded her father’s words on her iPhone and exchanged approving glances with her sister. Both women said they were thrilled to be back in Louisiana and noted their father was wearing a Tulane tie.

“Jackie was actually born in New Orleans, so we’re very excited to be back,” Gingrich Lubbers said. “We’re actually going to our old house on Lowerline [Street] after this to take a picture.”

State Convention Director and Caucus Director for the Gingrich Campaign Murray Nelson said Gingrich’s presence in New Orleans was vital to his campaign.

“It’s good for Gingrich to come to Louisiana, period,” Nelson said. “All of these states whether they are primary or caucus states, the hunt of delegates is what gets you to the presidency.”

College Repulican President Joseph Stevens said the event went smoothly given the amount of time organizers had to plan the event – about a week.

“The event went off very well given the short amount of time we had to plan,” Stevens said. “The campaign was very understanding and very willing to help where they could, but they were also constrained by the other events that they had to organize and plan.”

College Republican Chief of Staff Nicholas Callais said it was difficult to find a venue that would suit the campaign’s needs on such short notice because the university had already booked many of the logical locations. In the end, the Richardson Building was available and worked well for both the campaign and the university.

Freshman Chris Halbohn said he enjoyed Gingrich’s speech.

“He didn’t talk about anything too controversial,” Halbohn said “I also kind of like how people held it together – they weren’t heckling him too badly. It was very professional over all.”

Freshman Harrison Mona said he thought it was a testament to Tulane that a former speaker of the house graduated with two degrees from the university.

“I think it’s impressive we have someone who graduated from Tulane who went on to be speaker of the house and a presidential candidate.”