Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain made a stop on the campaign trail Dec. 1 to visit MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business and talk pizza, not politics.
Nearly halfway into his lecture on “Leadership Lessons Learned in a Turnaround—The Godfather’s Pizza Story,” however, some audience members interrupted him, chanting “we are the 99 percent” and saying that Cain owed apologies to everyone in the nation.
Other members of the audience disagreed with the protesters, some shouting “get out!” and then rising to applaud Cain after the protesters left.
“It’s obvious that those people aren’t ‘the 99 percent,’ since only about six people left during his presentation,” said Landon Beirnes, an MTSU junior majoring in criminal justice. “I agree with what he had to say, and I can see the well-developed leadership principles in his life.”
Andrew Nash, the student who introduced Cain before his presentation, said the candidate was asked to speak to entrepreneurship students about leadership qualities before he decided to run for U.S. president.
“I promised the dean of the college (Dr. Jim Burton) that I’m not going to talk about anything about political,” Cain said. “I am not rattled by those who stood up while I was talking. Some people just abuse free speech.”
Cain then explained his experiences at Godfather’s Pizza, Burger King, Coca-Cola and the U.S. Navy.
“Leaders are born, but great leaders must keep working for it,” he said. “Good leaders figure out the right problem to focus on, ask the right questions and remove barriers.”
He also mentioned people who have inspired Americans with their leadership, such as presidents and civil-rights activists.
“You know, I don’t ever remember hearing about Abraham Lincoln attending a leadership conference,” Cain said. “He just did it. He addressed the right problem first, and he kept this nation together.”
Entrepreneurship students’ written questions for Cain after the lecture focused on how students can keep up with the job market and economy.
“In the technological age, you can never stop learning,” the former CEO responded. “If you stop learning, you will be left behind. I recently read … about how the United States contributes 25 percent of the world GDP (gross domestic product). The total GDP of the world is $60 trillion. We produce so much with so little, and this is why we have enemies.”
Cain said that even though the U.S. government is on “life support,” the United States is still one of the best nations in the world.
“We wouldn’t have had some of the advances and technology we have today without this nation’s moral values, Constitution and free market economy,” Cain said. “We wouldn’t have had people like Steve Jobs, for instance, if we had been a communist country.”
The candidate emphasized the importance of focus in success, adding that self-motivation is a key factor in being a leader, along with having faith in oneself, one’s nation and creator.
“He has the vision and good direction that he can apply to all things in his life,” Beirnes said after Cain’s lecture. “It’s nice to see him speak about something else outside the political arena. However, I would have been here had he chosen to talk about political issues.”
Cain also said that this nation cannot lose its optimistic values and that Americans must remain inspired to make the country better.
“Overall, what he had to say was pretty motivational,” said Bryant Stevens, a junior majoring in electronic media production. “Even though his speech felt a little rehearsed and cliché, he’s a true businessman. But he didn’t convince me that he’s the best choice to run the nation.”
Shortly after the speech at MTSU, Cain announced on Fox News that he would make a decision about whether to continue his campaign after several allegations of inappropriate behavior, according to the Associated Press.
— Emily West of Sidelines (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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