BY: WESLEY ROBINSON
Sen. Mitch McConnell took a break from budgets and challenger speculation to give a talk on one of Kentucky’s most influential lawmakers at Eastern.
McConnell spoke for a little more than half an hour outlining the exploits and accomplishments of Kentucky Sen. John J. Crittenden. Nearly people 130 packed in one of the Perkins building quads to hear McConnell’s lecture, including Laurel Smith of Hazard.
“I was really impressed with the role Kentucky has played in the country’s history and how many great statesmen have come from the Commonwealth,” Smith said.
Smith said she heard McConnell’s talk about Henry Clay on NPR and was eager to hear the lecture on Crittenden and hear more about his history.
In addition to four U.S. Senate terms, Crittenden also served on the House of Representatives and twice held the office of the U.S. Attorney General. He was also the 17th governor of Kentucky and is the namesake of Crittenden County.
McConnell said Crittenden is lesser known than the great statesman Henry Clay, but carved out his role in American history through compromise and negotiating with fellow lawmakers. McConnell cited two major instances where Crittenden was instrumental in keeping Kentucky from seceding from the Union as well as working to prevent war with Great Britain over the Oregon Territory. McConnell said Crittenden performed a great service to the state and the country and set a great example for the need to compromise.
“I think we need to remember that even though we may have very different opinions for the direction the country should be going, there is still room for compromise,” McCconnell said.
Smith said she enjoyed hearing McConnell talk about Crittenden’s desire for compromise and reaching a consensus and this philosophy can be applied to our current leaders.
“History doesn’t have to repeat itself, it’s always smart to take a look back,” Smith said.
Tom Appleton, a professor of history said he enjoyed McConnell’s anecdotes about the Crittenden’s knowledge of the political process and his desire for compromise. He added that because the speech would be aired on C-SPAN and the media coverage would be a great recruiting tool for the university.
“Not only is he a student of history but he’s a news maker,” Appleton said. “It’s always great to have a dignitary like that on our campus.”
This was the third of about a dozen lectures on Kentucky statesmen, which Appleton, who is also campus coordinator of Eastern’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Observance, said fit in with Eastern’s goal.
“We decided that it would be appropriate to about a Civil War Era Senator,” Appleton said. “We have offered about a dozen lectures on the Civil War topic and were happy his was among that group.”
Before the speech McConnell presented President Doug Whitlock with a framed page of the Congressional record to commemorate his service to Eastern and the state as an administrator in higher education.
McConnell, who was introduced by Whitlock at the event, said the framed Congressional record page contained the praise for Eastern’s outgoing president that he delivered while on the Senate floor.