About 1,400 attend Ben Carson book signing in Wichita Falls

Jacob Smith

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Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20. Photo by Gabriella Solis.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20. Photo by Gabriella Solis.

To promote  his new book A More Perfect Union, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson signed books for about 1,400 people — including about 20 students — at Hastings Oct. 20.

By 1 p.m. the display for Carson’s new book was up and in front of the store’s entrance. Three people were already in line waiting to get an autograph after Carson suspended his presidential campaign to take the book-signing tour.

“We are making preparations for our store by doing the best we can to create as much space as possible,” Chris Bales, the manager of Hastings, said. “Our main priorities are to ensure line control and make sure our security is ready for the event.”

By 4 p.m. the line, including one student, was beginning to grow and was spreading throughout the store snaking around the aisles.

“I waited in line for two and a half hours,” Lee Ginnings, guitar performance senior, said. “I wanted to be at the front of the line. Dr. Carson has been a hero of mine since I was a little kid. Even before he started his political campaign. When I saw that he was coming here I couldn’t miss out on it.”

Carson’s tour bus parked in front of the entrance at Hastings at 7 p.m. By that time there were more than 600 people crowded inside Hastings. The line began in the movie rental section of the store and wrapped around every individual aisle all the way to the other end of the book section side of the store where Carson would be signing. As the doors were opened, Carson stepped inside. The crowd cheered and applauded.

Addison Thompson, finance junior, said “I wasn’t surprised to see that most of the crowd were older adults, but seeing younger adults my age both surprised and encouraged me.”

Ginnings said, “It was surreal getting to meet him. When I got to actually see him and he extended his hand to me, the way he looked me in the eye, I could tell he cared about me. You could tell he cared about those people there.”

Carson was signing about 1,000 books per hour according to staff members traveling with him and advance directions indicated he would not personalize the books and would not sign anything but his book. As the moment of getting his booked signed went by in seconds, Ginnings stared at Carson’s signature in his book and thumbed through the pages, excitement obvious in his eyes.

“From what I have read his views are solid. He believes in a strong constitution oriented nation. I want to see what his plan is to get the nation out of the state that it is in right now,” Ginnings said.

In his new book, the presidential candidate and former MSU graduation speaker, proposes an admonition to the people of our country reminding them of their freedoms that are expressed in the Constitution. He also urges readers to come to the realization of how fragile these freedoms are and that our liberty must be “clearly defined.”

While answering questions from reporters during a brief media question-and-answer session, Carson said there were a lot of reasons why students should support him.

“We’re trying to save their future,” Carson said. “One of the biggest things I’m worried about is our fiscal responsibility.”

Thompson who has read A More Perfect Union and Carson’s previous publication America the Beautiful said she supports Carson and has gained a lot of knowledge, both politically and morally through his words.

“Because of his Christian views and the fact that his morals align with mine stand out to me. It’s important to have a leader that has morals,” Thompson said. “I believe he is a strong candidate. He is a well-educated man, and I admire his faith in his beliefs and our country.”

However, not all students and staff are as supportive of Carson’s beliefs as those in attendance at his book signing. Carson’s second experience in Wichita Falls comes as a stark contrast to his previous visit for the MSU May graduation of 2013 when Carson was the graduation speaker. Eleven faculty members and two students staged a walk out during his speech.

“There were a number of people on campus that were upset that he was invited,” said Elizabeth Lewandowski, theater professor. “He was very clear about his political views about people who were gay and elderly, people who weren’t essentially young and white. Everything he had gone on record as saying and believing struck a number of us that he was more close minded then someone should be that was going to be our graduation speaker.”

At the time, the university president himself chose the graduation speaker and members of the faculty at a special meeting of the Faculty Senate expressed concern about the choice of Carson as a speaker.

Lewandowski said, “The verdict was that it was too close to graduation for us to un-invite him. However Dr. Rogers made it clear that anyone who wanted to respectfully get up and leave should absolutely have the right to do that free of any repercussions.”

A group of both students and faculty that desired to protest the speech crafted multi-colored ribbons and passed them out at graduation for everyone who was willing to stand with them in this statement of unity.

“We waited until Dr. Rogers had given his introduction for Ben Carson and then we very quietly stood up and walked out. When he was done speaking we came back in and respectfully took our seats,” Lewandowski said.

And she added that this visit, not a political rally or official talk, was simply a book signing at a private business not part of a public celebration.

“I mentioned it in passing to a few students and faculty that participated in the walk out and we agreed that that is his right. I have no problem with it now because I am not being asked to sit and listen to what I viewed at that time as hate speech,” Lewandowski said.

In addition, Carson was not running for political office in 2013. Based on the some 1,400 people at Tuesday’s event and his placement as one of the top two Republican candidates for president, he has a higher volume of supporters, especially voting Republicans willing to attend his events.

“He is really just testing the waters for his presidential campaign. This is Texas and while we have more registered Democrats than Republicans, more Republicans turn out to vote,” Lewandowski said. “This is a opportune time for him to do a book signing because it draws attention to his campaign. So I’m sure there was some strategizing to having these things occur at the same time.”

Ben Carson 2015

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson traveled to Wichita Falls for a book signing on Oct. 20 2015. Photo by Gabriella Solis.

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