U.C. Merced welcomed Karl Rove to the campus

MERCED, Calif.

People paid $35 to hear Karl Rove speak Friday night. Students were given free tickets.

He is the third major political figure to visit U.C. Merced within the past year and a half. First Lady Michelle Obama came in May of 2009 and former President Jimmy Carter was here this past May.

While Rove was greeted with mostly fan fair, others spoke out against his visit.

U.C. Merced has welcomed political figures to its campus before, but organizers say Friday's visit by political strategist, Karl Rove is groundbreaking. Rove is the first prominent conservative to speak at the school.

"It's finally a chance for young republicans to get their views around here cause so many colleges seem to be so liberal these days and it's good to see a conservative come around here and maybe spread the word," said Adam Hamilton.

Rove spoke before an audience of more than 900 people. Topics ranged from health care reform to President Obama's budget framework.

Rove criticized what he calls government overspending. "We are on the way to becoming like Greece, only on steroids, and there will be no European union to bail us out. Not at all. This is a disaster for our country and we've gotta stop it."

At one point, Rove denounced president Obama's multi-billion dollar stimulus package, which drew outcry from at least one protester in the audience. The protester was later escorted out.

Meanwhile, a group of students participated in a silent protest against what they say is Rove's critical view on gay issues.

"Just demonstrating that the L.G.B.T. community does exist and we're in this campus, we're in Merced and we care about issues," said U.C. Merced student Andrea Mercado.

U.C. Merced's "College Republican Group" and "Young Americans Foundation" invited Rove to the event.

Afterward, Rove said he hopes people understood his message and that they'll take it to the polls this November. "If you want to do something about the spending and the deficits, and the debt and Obama care, then turn out and vote."

After his thirty minute speech, Rove answered questions from the audience and signed copies of his book, "Courage and Consequence."

He is scheduled to speak at a conference in Bakersfield on Saturday.

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