National news icons discuss guns, Trump, politics at Kent Stark


Juan Williams (left) and Cal Williams debate during Kent Stark’s featured speaker series on Thursday, April 12. 

Brynn Pennell

National news icons Cal Thomas and Juan Williams told a large crowd of students, staff and community members Thursday night at Kent State Stark their opinions on important issues driving America’s future and our political leadership.

As an author, broadcaster and pundit, Thomas is one of the most widely known syndicated political columnists in America with over 35 years of experience.

With over 25 years of experience in politics, Williams is a liberal contributor for Fox News and writes for The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Thomas and Williams focused on controversial mainstream political topics and how Americans can have productive civil conversations to achieve common ground.

Of the many topics discussed, the conversation mainly revolved around immigration, gun rights  and President Donald Trump.

The news icons had different views on the discussion over immigration, specifically about “The Wall” President Trump wants to build between the border between the United States and Mexico.

“Trump wants to build a wall, whether it will get built or not, who knows, it is working in Israel and keeping the terrorists out of Israel, so I think we need to take a look at that thought,” Thomas said.

“When it comes to the wall, facts are facts,” Williams said. “Net migration coming across that southern border is zero, zero. Most people who come here illegally fly in or take ships and come into legal ports of entry and overstaying their visas …This wall has become a fixation of President Trump and his supporters because it is a symbol of their distaste for their newcomers.”

One of the things that Thomas and Williams agreed on was guns. Both Thomas and Williams believe that the government needs to increase background checks on people trying to purchase a gun, and that it overall needs to be harder to own a gun.

“I believe we need even better background checks, and I wrote a column about the Florida shooting that I think state law should be changed to allow the state and state psychiatrists to intervene with people who clearly have a mental disorder,” Thomas said. “Right now, the law is that you cannot confine anyone for more than 72 hours without charging them of something. This guy in Florida might has well had a beanie with a red light flashing on top of his head, he had been visited by the authorities and the FBI at least twice. His parents had died and the people whom he was living with were constantly telling authorities of his danger, of his threats and social media. He openly said he was going to wreak havoc. There ought to be a way with the state to intervene with this.”

“To me, the easy acces that we have to guns in this country is a problem that is worthy of serious discussion and debate,” Williams said. “… To my mind, I think it requires that we have a very honest debate about the source of this, and I think it comes back to guns and the easy access to guns. The fact that gun manufacturers have locked this up on this issue, and it is hard to expect that Washington is going to respond when in fact all of us as the American people are not at the point of any easy decision.”

President Trump was widely discussed throughout the night, with Thomas and Williams both offering their opinion.

“He is president now,” Thomas said. “He doesn’t need to be bashing Hillary still and other people. People know what the problems are and they want to find the solutions … I am thinking a positive optimistic approach is what Americans expect of their leaders. We are optimistic people.”

“Here is a situation where politicians in the past were judged on the basis of character, prior experience and how to react under pressure,” Williams said. “We know almost none of that with President Trump, he has never held elected office before. He was a democrat and talks about people who gave money to Hillary Clinton. He gave money to Hillary Clinton previously on some of the most divisive issues such as abortion. He switched sides. So I think it wasn’t so much that people were drawn to him as a political inspiration based on character so much as a great disruptive as he was seen as someone who would shake up the system.”

Williams later on stated he does not feel as though President Trump is fit to hold office.  

Prior to the debate Thursday, Thomas and Williams spoke to local high school and middle school students via Google Hangouts. Major topics of discussion included abortion, gun violence, national debt and staying informed in politics.

“The problem I see for many young people is that they get their information from Facebook or social media, you have to dig in,” Thomas said. “It’s like studying for a test, well I hope you do on occasion at least. But you have to study and spend time at it, you have to go through the material you have been given.”

“Everyone takes the delight in saying how they hate politics and how they hate politicians, but it is part of American life,” Williams said. “I think especially for you as young people it is so important that you have a sense of your importance to our politics.”

Thomas and Williams took part in Kent Stark’s Featured Speaker Series, a university event hosting national and international experts in civil rights, politics, education, environmental activism, literature and arts to campus.

Brynn Pennell is the regional campuses reporter. Contact her at [email protected].