COLUMBIA — A crowd of several hundred people assembled Thursday at MU to hear Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul outline the platform of personal liberty he has maintained for more than two decades.
"It's a beautiful day for liberty," Paul began after nearly 10 seconds of applause.
His message was simple: We must return to the America the founders intended.
Paul pointed to the Federal Reserve as the source of many of the United States' economic woes, including price fixing and misplaced bailouts. He called for a "thorough audit" of the institution, though several members of the audience cried out for a more radical solution to "end the Fed."
The congressman also addressed foreign policy, citing the United States' military response to al-Qaida as a prime example of the unintended consequences and unnecessary expenses racked up by the government's "pre-emptive" strategy.
Paul said al-Qaida was provoked rather than discouraged by foreign occupiers. "Why don't we take (their) good advice and leave Afghanistan?" he said.
The crowd roared in response.
Paul also addressed personal liberties.
"On Jan. 1, 40,000 laws went into effect," Paul said. "I'd like to be the president that got rid of 40,000 laws in one night."
The congressman listed numerous governmental infringements on civil liberties made in the name of safety, including the Patriot Act, calling it "the Repeal-the-Fourth-Amendment Act." He also spoke about the war on drugs, saying "The states should have a right to allow sick people to use marijuana."
"It is never necessary to give up any liberty to be safe and secure," Paul said.
A few minutes shy of 1 p.m., Paul wrapped up by telling the crowd that real change occurs at the hands of the "irate, tireless minority."
Paul said he was confident he could win in November.
"We can come out on top of Obama as well," he said.
As Paul made his exit, chants of "President Paul" resounded across the quad.
Mark Jansen, a volunteer and perennial Paul supporter, said he was satisfied with the turnout on MU's Mel Carnahan Quadrangle.
"For two to three days advance notice, this is pretty good," Jansen said.
Pre-registered seating for the event, which was advertised on Facebook and by word-of-mouth, was fully booked, Jansen said.
Among members of the crowd, which began to swell around the reserved seating area even before general admission was slated to begin at 11:30 a.m., economic policy was the buzz phrase.
Some praised Paul for his commitment to reining in government spending.
"He's the only one really serious about cutting the budget," said Harry Hill, Howard County coordinator for Saturday's Republican caucus.
And cuts to the budget weren't the only things Hill seemed pleased with.
Labeling Paul as a non-interventionist, Hill said Paul's policies would "shrink the (American) empire" overseas.
In the sea of pro-Paul signs, MU senior Dakota Beveridge attracted hecklers as she held her own sign opposing Paul's policies on women's reproductive rights and cuts to welfare programs.
"I just think both sides need to be represented here," Beveridge said.