Sen. Rand Paul spoke to a group of skeptical students at Howard University on Wednesday — reiterating his support for civil rights and noting the GOP’s Civil War-era history with African Americans.
“No Republican questions or disputes civil rights,” the Kentucky Republican said in response to a question about his support of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In a televised interview during his 2010 Senate campaign, Paul questioned the need for the legislation, Politico reports.
“I’ve never wavered in my support for civil rights or the Civil Rights Act,” Paul said, according to Politico. He added that he did “question some of the ramifications” of the act on business.
Paul, who has said that he is seriously considering a 2016 presidential run, went to one of the nation’s oldest historically black colleges to expand his support beyond his conservative tea party base.
The last Republicans to address Howard students were former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in 2009 and Retired Army Gen. Colin Powell in 1994, Politico reports.
“Here I am today at Howard University, a historically black college …some have said that either I’m brave or crazy to be here today,” Paul said, according to Politico. “My hope is that you hear me out and see me for who I am and not as a caricature put forward by political opponents.
“I can stumble into the areas — I may stumble and fall but at least I can try,” Paul said.
The senator then told students of the GOP’s Civil War history with the emancipation of slaves, and attacked Southern Democrats for the discrimination of that era. “How did we lose the support of an entire race?” he asked “How did we lose that vote?”
Still, students were unmoved by Paul’s words.
“He just focused on the past rather than tell us what the party will do for us now,” Felicyana Lowery, a sophomore marketing major, told Politico. “I need to know what they have in store for my future.”
“All his examples were from 100 years ago,” Brendon Patterson, an economics major from Chicago, told Politico. “I wasn’t moved.”
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