Gov. John Kasich returned to his alma mater to encourage students to follow their dreams before addressing the topic of jobs and answering questions about the cost of higher education Monday evening.
“When you find your purpose in life, you will find the key to satisfaction and happiness,” Kasich said to a crowd of about 280 at the Ohio Union.
He spoke during a campaign kickoff event for OSU College Republicans on Monday night, and he kept his speech light — standing on stage without a tie and opening with a joke about how all freshmen in attendance should be at home studying.
He focused on finding direction in life, and encouraged attendees to always go after what they want.
“I am not the smartest kid, but I was persistent in my mind about what I wanted to be,” Kasich said. “If you have hopes and dreams, follow them.”
This divergence from political topics left some students pleasantly surprised.
“I liked how he talked about hopes and dreams, and following your passions, rather than just making it purely political,” said Daniel Klein, a sixth-year in industrial and systems engineering and a member of College Republicans.
Kasich is currently campaigning for re-election with running mate and current lieutenant governor Mary Taylor. Kasich is facing Democratic Party candidate Ed FitzGerald and Green Party candidate Anita Rios.
The governor didn’t shy away from politics the entire evening. He encouraged the students in the audience to stay in Ohio because he said jobs are being created in the state.
“You may want to leave, but we have a lot happening here, including great jobs,” he said. “We are cool.”
He also said it’s important people get out to vote.
“If I had a magic wand to get all young people to vote, I would use it,” he said.
Miranda Onnen, spokeswoman for the OSU chapter of College Republicans, said in an email that the organization reached out to Kasich’s campaign in the spring to host this event on campus.
Onnen said the idea was well-received by Kasich’s campaign, and that the campaign and College Republicans saw the event as a chance to bring OSU students and the governor together.
Kasich might not be the only gubernatorial candidate talking to OSU students this fall — FitzGerald’s campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the campaign had reached out to the OSU chapter of College Democrats and hopes to have a campaign event on campus with FitzGerald on the calendar shortly.
College Democrats did not respond to The Lantern’s request for comment Monday.
A release Hitt sent to The Lantern before Kasich’s talk at OSU, with the subject line ‘What Kasich Won’t Say at OSU Tonight,’ noted some specifics of Kasich’s record on higher education.
“Despite the fact that tuition went up this year at all but two of Ohio’s public colleges and universities, Gov. Kasich allocated the smallest percentage of state funding to higher education in 15 years,” the release read.
Kasich addressed the cost of higher education during the Q&A portion of his OSU talk, however.
“I am concerned about the cost of higher education,” he said. “There are ways we can bring down that cost. Attending a two-year university and transferring will reduce the cost, taking college courses through high school will reduce the cost, but there is more we can do.
“People are opposed to change, but changes have to happen.”
Kasich also mentioned an effort he’s been working on with former OSU President E. Gordon Gee to reduce the cost of higher education.
Connie Wehrkamp, spokeswoman for Kasich Taylor for Ohio, said in an interview after the event that Kasich was excited about coming to OSU to speak.
“Kasich went here, he worked here, so it’s always good for him to come back,” Wehrkamp said.
Some OSU students went to the event to show support for Kasich’s campaign and to hear what he had to say. Brenda Ward, a graduate student in education, said she came to the event because she saw Kasich speak on campus four years ago before he became governor.
“I wanted to come out and support him and see what he has planned for the next four years,” Ward said.
Wehrkamp said Kasich doesn’t have any other college appearances planned, but she added that there are still two months of campaigning left, so it’s not out of the question.