Two men sit on a stage at Georgetown.
Category: Student Experience, University News

Title: GU Politics Hosts Boris Johnson, Kevin McCarthy and Maxwell Frost for Conversations on Democracy

Last week, Georgetown welcomed former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Florida) and former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for conversations on democracy and politics.

Hosted by the Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics), the political leaders spoke extensively on democracy in the U.S. and around the world in three separate events during the week of April 8.

“Democracy is being challenged around the world, and at GU Politics, our goal is to give students a chance to engage with leaders across the political spectrum as they explore why,“ said Mo Elleithee (SFS’94), executive director of GU Politics.

Read more about what each of the political leaders said.

Assessing American Politics With Kevin McCarthy

GU Politics hosted former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy for a discussion on the state of American politics moderated by Elleithee.

Kicking off the conversation in Lohrfink Auditorium, Mo Elleithee asked McCarthy why trust in American democracy has declined in recent years, citing a new GU Politics poll that found that 81% of respondents said that they believe democracy in America was currently threatened. 

McCarthy responded by explaining how social media, the rise of more ideological news outlets and the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic have all contributed to a more fractured democracy.

Two men sit on stage discussing politics in front of a crowd of students.

The former speaker also talked about trust in elections, his decision to challenge the results of the 2020 election and his views of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“What happened on January 6 was wrong,” he said. “I don’t apologize for any of the people who did it. I don’t think it was right in any shape or form.”

McCarthy also talked about his upbringing in California and how his parents taught him to work hard. He told a story of how he applied for an internship with his local congressman’s office during college.

“He turned me down. But you know what I did? I got elected to the seat I couldn’t get an internship in and became the 55th Speaker of the House. Only in America could that happen,” McCarthy said.

During the event, McCarthy answered questions from students, ranging from the future of bipartisanship to McCarthy’s vote against certifying the 2020 election and his subsequent trip to visit former President Donald Trump at Mar a Lago, and funding for Ukraine. 

One student asked if McCarthy felt he turned his back on democracy, particularly after he visited Mar a Lago and, as the student put it, said, “This is still the guy who should be leading our party.” McCarthy responded:

“Did I go to Mar a Lago? Yes, but I didn’t say that at Mar a Lago … So that’s not true. I also have another philosophy. Whether I like you or dislike you, if something bad happens in your life, I want to be the first person to call you … You can play anything you want into me going to Mar a Lago, but I simply got a phone call, and I was down there doing a fundraiser. ‘Would I come by and see the president?’ Yeah. Did I think all the attention would go out? No.”

Watch the talk here.

Elevating Young Voices and Activism With Maxwell Frost

A group of students stand under an arch inside a building.
Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Florida) meets with students in GU Politics’ office.

As the first member of Gen Z to be elected to Congress, Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Florida) spoke to the Georgetown community on April 10 about the need for young voices in politics and activism.

In a conversation with Wesley Lowery, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former GU Politics Fellow, Frost opened by giving his thoughts on the 2024 election and the challenges he and his fellow Democrats face in Florida and around the nation.

Lowery asked Frost how he balances his identity as an activist looking to change a system with his role as an elected official working inside of the system. Frost explained how he trusts himself to serve his constituents and how his activism experience has prepared him to serve in Congress.

“I realized I was running to go into an institution that has caused a lot of harm to people like myself and to people across the country and people really around the world,” said Frost, who rose to prominence as an advocate against gun violence. “But I also recognized that we need people we trust in these positions … I trust myself to advocate for issues that I care about and that I know my constituents care about.”

Two men sit on stage discussing politics in front of a crowd of students.

Frost also discussed how he approaches young voters who feel apathetic or despondent about politics and the prospect for change. He said he advocates and approaches those voters through love and grace while avoiding naming and shaping people for their apathy. 

When asked what advice he would give to aspiring young people who want to become elected officials or organizers, Frost emphasized the importance of all types of organizing.

“The top advice I’d give to everybody here for the longevity of our movement is to have respect for all the different types of organizing people do,” he said. “I know for a fact we have to use every tool in our toolbox. So whatever you choose to do, be proud of it, and know that it is important to the greater timeline for the justice of our people and the world that we want.”

Watch the full event here

The State of Global Democracy With Boris Johnson

Photo By: Phil Humnicky/Georgetown Univ.

In the final event of the week on April 11, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the stage in Gaston Hall to discuss the global trends affecting democracy and the future of democracy around the world with Elleithee.

Johnson opened by making his case for why democracy is the best form of government. He emphasized how capitalist democracies can produce greater innovations to serve the common good of their societies.

“The case we need to make for democracy is that it’s not only the right thing, but it’s also the thing that no matter how stressful and painful it is, it’s also the thing that produces the greatest prosperity,” Johnson said. 

Two men sit on stage discussing politics in front of a crowd of students.
Photo By: Phil Humnicky/Georgetown Univ.

During the hour-long conversation, Johnson touched on several points over the war in Ukraine. He said how important it was for Western countries to continue supporting Ukraine, saying that there is no better way for the U.S. to bolster Western security than by supporting Ukraine, which he said is ultimately fighting for American and democratic interests.

The former prime minister also spoke on the ongoing war in Gaza, how to handle misinformation and his push for Brexit while he was in office.

In response to questions from Georgetown students, Johnson debated the merits of the parliamentary versus the presidential systems of government and the potential for referendums in Northern Ireland and Scotland to leave the United Kingdom. When pressed by a student on the consequences of Brexit, Johnson emphasized how Brexit empowered the U.K. to pursue its own agenda and better respond to the needs of its citizens. 

For the final question of the afternoon, Elleithee asked the former prime minister if he would ever run for election again, to which he replied it was unlikely in the short term.

“The only circumstances under which anybody should stand for election is if they really think they have something useful to contribute,” he said. “And if I did think that, I would.”

Watch the full talk here.