'Think big,' Gingrich tells 300 at Millersville University
  • Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich speaks Wednesday at Millersville University.

Updated Apr 18, 2012 15:14

Newt Gingrich comes off like a really smart professor with answers to all of the country's big problems.

The dilemma, according to the fiery former House speaker, is that Washington isn't capable of thinking like he does. It doesn't take his ideas seriously. 

"The challenge in Washington is they think too small," the Republican presidential hopeful told some 300 people on the campus of Millersville University Wednesday. "You can't fix really big problems with tiny solutions. You have to have solutions the size of the challenges," said Gingrich.

The former Georgia representative told his audience, many of whom are students, that the key to their generation's success at solving American's problems will be in major innovation and big-picture breakthroughs.

If Gingrich had his way, for example, we'd pay off the $15.7 trillion national debt by opening up the nation's federal lands and offshore sites to natural gas and oil companies, then collecting royalties from them.

We'd educate unskilled laborers and help businesses recruit good workers by forcing the jobless to get training if they want to collect unemployment checks.

And the government would turn Social Security over to citizens, who would invest part of their earnings over the course of 55 years or so in the labor force and retire whenever they want — not when the government says they can.

"This is the kind of large strategic change that really changes everything," Gingrich said during a 40-minute appearance in the Lehr Room of Millersville University's Gordinier Hall, in the Bolger Conference Center.

Gingrich's speech was less a stump speech — Pennsylvania's primary is less than a week away — and more a college lecture reminiscent of his days as a professor.

But he did strike a defiant tone, albeit briefly, against Republicans putting pressure on him to get out of the primary race before the party's nominating convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer. He said likely nominee Mitt Romney's nomination is "not quite as inevitable as the news media would have you believe" — even though the former Massachusetts governor holds a wide lead in delegates.

Nonetheless, referring to himself as the "last conservative standing," Gingrich said: "I intend to go all the way to Tampa talking about real ideas and real solutions."

Said Gingrich: "I decided to run because I think these things really matter. I'd love your vote next Tuesday."

It was Gingrich's second appearance in Lancaster County in as many days. He and Romney spoke to some 1,100 Republicans Tuesday night at the Lancaster County Convention Center. That event was a fundraising banquet for the Republican Committee of Lancaster County.

Gingrich's appearance on campus was sponsored by the Robert and Sue Walker Center for Civic Responsibility and Leadership at Millersville University.

"The greatest need we have," said Gingrich, "is to get into a new political dialogue that has solutions as big as the country. We're not going to fix the problems we're in by a series of tiny steps. We have to have large strategic solutions. They have to be values-based on the principles that made us American."

Gingrich, speaking of values, said he would require anyone seeking unemployment compensation to sign up for a training program.

"Think about this: We currently give people money for up to 99 weeks. In 99 weeks you can get an associates degree, but we give them money for doing nothing," Gingrich said.

"Here is a fundamental values question that relates back to innovation and change: As a matter of values, should we give people money for doing nothing? Or as a matter of values should we tie it back to the work ethic, the right to pursue happiness and insist the people get trained if they get the money?"

He said those queries are the "central questions in how we're organizing a society."

"Part of what we're confronting is, Do we adopt policies that maximize being American and maximize the habits and the values of the American system, or is that now obsolete, as one Supreme Court justice suggested, and are we really trying to wrestle our way to a new approach?

"I think for your generation this will become an extraordinarily important conversation," Gingrich said.


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