The Madison Hotel’s Shenandoah conference room was packed with people in formalwear on March 24. The clink of forks and knives hitting plates and scattered murmurs filled the air as attendees eagerly awaited the arrival of JMU alumnus, former College Republicans (CR) president and now attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

CR President and Junior Juliana McGrath officially kicked off the event with a hammer on the podium at the front of the room and thanked club sponsors, including Tim Miller, Vice President of Student Affairs, who was present.

After McGrath was sworn in as new members of the president for the 2022-23 school year, future first vice president and sophomore Abby Cannella welcomed delegate Chris Runion (R) to the podium to introduce Miyares. As Miyares walked from his table at the back of the room to the podium, the attendees cheered and heads turned to follow him as he walked between the tables.

“The College of Republicans claims me,” Miyares said as he arrived on the podium. “I’m not sure many clubs would do that.”

This was answered by silent laughter from the crowd.

“It’s an honor to be back to speak on behalf of a club of which I was president,” said Miyares.

Miyares acknowledged the conflict between Russia and Ukraine before talking about the lack of acceptance of divergent ideas.

He referenced a poll, saying 66% of college students said they thought it was okay to shut down people whose ideas they disagreed with, and 89% of students think it was okay to shut them down. to use violence against people whose opinions are different from their own.

“How did we get here?” Miyares asked.

He linked this to an event he attended earlier that day. Miyares referred to Virginia State College, but the proper name is Virginia State University. He said it was probably the first time an audience had heard a Republican speech before.

This was greeted with laughter from the crowd.

He continued: “There’s a caricature that the left tends to make in its mind of who you are, what you believe in.”

The heads of the audience nodded in agreement and soft laughter was exchanged. The rest of Miyares’ speech was an ode to his time at JMU when he was president of CR.

“One of the things I loved about the College of Republicans was that I felt like I found a home,” he said. “Friendships stay with you for the rest of your life and you meet some fabulous people at a young age.”

Miyares posted a photo of himself from the late 1990s in CR with former Virginia Governor George Allen on the spotlight. The room filled with laughter as he talked about the memories he had made when he was in CR.

“They brought in a speaker when I was in CR, [rapper] Sister Souljah,” Miyares began. “She had [previously] said a statement saying we should have a national day when black people can kill white people. They invited her to campus to talk. I firmly believe that the best way to fight bad information is to have good information. When she spoke to Grafton-Stovall, we just handed out flyers with her quote on them and said ‘Stop the Hate’.

Miyares also told the story of a club that wanted to celebrate Earth Day by placing a large amount of logs on the hill near D-Hall to represent a felled forest. Miyares said it was a good move at first, but as days and weeks passed and the logs were still not cleared, CR put a sign on the hill that said “Free Firewood” and the logs disappeared in a few days.

“We like to recycle,” Miyares said, laughing with the audience.

Miyares then changed his tune and said that at JMU “there really is a silent majority”, not directly identifying what that majority is, but alluding to students who see themselves as right-wingers. the political spectrum.

“A lot of times I didn’t feel a single one of those teachers I could identify with, maybe two, who were even slightly center-right,” Miyares said.

Miyares ended his speech by explaining that the United States has both a strong sense of community and individual identity.

He ended with a closing statement: “’Democracy in America’ was required reading in high school and college. Has a single student in this room read it? he asked and no one raised their hand. “That says a lot,” he said.

Having Miyares speak at the CR Banquet was very exciting for the group, McGrath said.

“This is our first banquet in two years because of [COVID-19], so we know we wanted it to be big,” McGrath said. “It was a real honor that Attorney General Miyares accepted our invitation to speak.”

Miller said he wanted to support the club by attending the event and as a JMU alumnus himself, he wanted to support Miyares. Miller said he “loves being here and honors this group as a past president.”

Regarding Miyares’ first official invitation to speak at an event like this, he said he was “flattered and honoured” and said it was like the “circle of life to invite “.

“It’s a bit like stepping into a time machine,” Miyares said, “being back on campus.”

Contact Avery Goodstine at [email protected] For more JMU and Harrisonburg news coverage, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.