(Left to right) Donnie Pulliam; Mark Smith; Mathew Reed; Michael Roundtree, chairman; and Michael Calicott. (Photo: Courtesey of Morehouse College Republicans)
This year's Thanksgiving dinner at the home Morehouse College junior Michael Roundtree is sure to be seasoned with spicy political debate. Roundtree, who comes from a family of devoted Democrats, is not only its lone conservative, but has been making headlines as the chairman of his school's College Republicans club.
Roundtree, who is majoring in chemistry with a minor in mathematics, has been engaging in political discussions and debate since his days in middle school. He initially began leaning right because of the Republican Party's stand on national defense when his father was serving in the U.S. Marines Corps. But he gradually realized that his values and views on other issues are also aligned with the GOP's.
"My mom sometimes says she strongly believes I should reconsider my values, but at the same time she raised me to be a critical thinker, so she has to support my choices," he told BET.com, which are centered around freedom and personal responsibility, school choice and other core Republican values.
As his freshman year was ending, the Chicago native discovered that Morehouse's College Republicans club had grown dormant because of graduating students and faculty advisers moving on, and set his sights on reactivating it.
"The biggest challenge was finding a faculty adviser who had the interest and the time to support a conservative student group and finding enough conservative students," Roundtree said, as well as meeting a tight deadline to file a constitution and other charter documents.
The group now has 12 members, five of whom serve on its executive board. Last week it celebrated its new charter with a private ceremony and fundraising dinner and a public lecture delivered by pro-life activist Alveda King, niece of slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. Her appearance was part of the club's Distinguished Lecture Speakers series that aims to present diversity in conservative political thought. Former presidential candidate Herman Cain addressed the group last year.
"We want people to realize that there's much more than just the Democratic Party out there and that Republicans are as diverse if not more diverse than Democrats when it comes to the ideologies that we have," Roundtree said.
Asked who tops his personal list of speakers they could get in a real world, he names former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Gen. Colin Powell, who are esteemed on the Republican "national stage and represent the Black community as conservatives very well." Their participation also would be important steps toward the club's goal of making Morehouse College and the Atlanta University Center a hub for African-American conservatives.
Looking ahead, the club is planning a project that would fund the purchase of an American flag and a pole to erect it on campus that would be tied to a student scholarship fundraising effort that would make awards based on essays on various conservative themes, such as the meaning of freedom and free markets. Members also will participate in local and national College Republican events and help promote the Republican National Committee's minority voter outreach efforts.
"For this first semester, we want to let people know that the Morehouse College Republicans are here. We're back and we mean business," Roundtree said. "We're serious about spreading the conservative word here in this community."
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