Former Republican White House aide Frank Lavin spoke to students in the library on Monday, March 27. The event, hosted by Stuyvesant’s Young Democrats, started with Lavin speaking about his present endeavors as CEO and founder of Export Now. He later discussed his political views on various issues.
Earlier in his career, Lavin served in the administrations of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan. More recently, Lavin was the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore from 2001 to 2005 and the Under Secretary of International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce from 2005 to 2007.
Currently, Lavin focuses on his company Export Now, which helps other companies establish an e-commerce presence in China.
Social studies teacher Dr. Lisa Greenwald first approached the Young Democrats after reading their newsletter, The Politique, because she noticed that they published pieces by conservatives and liberals. Dr. Greenwald believed her brother-in-law, Lavin, could share an interesting perspective with the members of the club.
Despite being a long-time Republican, Lavin had announced publicly that he would not support Donald Trump and that he planned to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
During his speech, Lavin shared his thoughts about why Trump was able to win the presidency. “[Lavin] described the fact that Clinton felt that, because she was the most educated [and knew] the most facts, [she] would lead people to believe that whatever she said was the morally righteous thing to do and […] the best thing for the country,” junior and president of the Stuyvesant Young Democrats Kevin Boodram said.
Lavin explained how Trump was different. In his speech, he mentioned that Trump recognized that there was a need for an emotional appeal. Clinton, on the other hand, never met this. During the presidential race, Trump gave the country what Hillary Clinton could not.
Lavin was asked at the meeting to explain why he did not support Trump, and he explained that his reasons went beyond differing in trade views. “He’s the CEO of a firm that’s all about trading and Trump is very much anti-trade. He was also against Trump for his rhetoric for the things he said against Mexicans, Muslims, and other minorities,” junior Mohammed Sarker said.
Lavin went on to address the possibility of Trump’s re-election. He discussed his views on what it will take for Trump to get re-elected, explaining how little he needs to accomplish in order to convince the people who voted for him in the 2016 election to vote for him again. “That kind of changed my perspective and made me realize how realistic a second term [for] Trump maybe really is,” Boodram said.
The Young Democrats were open to hearing different perspectives. “One of the reasons I really wanted him here [was] his experience. In The Politique, we’ve published writing by conservatives before. There are usually people who refuse to read it, much less internalize it, simply […] because the author is conservative. Lavin said many of the things that the conservatives who produce articles and attend our meetings say, however, people weren’t so willing to dismiss someone with as much experience as him so easily,” Boodram said.
Lavin greatly changed the perspectives of many of the 40 students that attended, some of whom were in the club and many others that were not. “We tend to think that all conservatives are racist, misogynistic, wealthy bigots and everything,” Sarker said.
He was also able to remind the leaders of the Young Democrats of their original guiding principles, specifically viewing situations through an objective lens. “With many Republicans like Lavin putting their country before their party and supporting nominees for other parties, […] the time is right for Democrats to start doing the same and respond by reaching out and accepting the extended arms of people from all over the political spectrum, not to turn them away with the bigotry that forced them out of the Republican party in the first place,” Boodram said.