Fifth speaker in Excellence through Diversity Series explores politics, diversity of thought

Political analyst Ana Navarro delivered speech to a packed Newcomb Ballroom Thursday

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The School of Engineering and Applied Science began its second-annual speaker series on Sept. 8 that has thus far included individuals such as Cornel West and Francis Collins.

Richard Dizon | Cavalier Daily

Ana Navarro, political analyst for multiple networks such as CNN and CNN en español, spoke at Newcomb Ballroom Thursday at 6 p.m. Her talk the fifth in the School of Engineering’s Excellence Through Diversity Distinguished Learning Series, a speaker series set up by the school’s Office of Diversity and Engagement.

In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Navarro briefly described what inspired her to speak at the University.

“I was awed by the way [students at the University] defended American values,” Navarro said, regarding the students’ response to the ‘Unite the Right’ events in Charlottesville Aug. 11 and 12. 

She also expressed hope that her talk would expose people to diversity of thought in politics. 

Prior to her speech, Navarro participated in a question-and-answer session with high school students from St. Anne’s-Belfield School and a meet-and-greet with the Latinx Student Alliance, Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

The ballroom was packed with people from the University and the surrounding Charlottesville community — including alumni and their family, current students, academic directors and staff members. High school students from St. Anne’s-Belfield School and Albemarle High School were also in attendance. 

First-year College student Pilar Jimenez chose to attend the talk to learn more about Navarro’s right-leaning political opinions and because of her shared Hispanic heritage with the speaker. Tabitha Enoch, assistant dean and director of Orientation and New Student Programs, wanted to attend Navarro’s speech because she has seen Navarro on CNN.

“I like the way she speaks the truth about politics,” Enoch said. 

Navarro began her speech by acknowledging the events that occurred in Charlottesville on Aug. 11 and 12.

“To all of you in Charlottesville, to all of you at U.Va., to all of you who represent diversity … I have just two words to say to you — thank you, thank you, thank you,” Navarro said. 

She then began to speak about her thoughts on the the recent presidential election. Navarro spoke in an expressive manner, interspersing jokes throughout her talk that broke up the more serious topics she discussed. 

“[In the past presidential election cycle,] I basically would have supported a potted plant,” Navarro said. “Actually, now that I think about it, I did support Jeb Bush … sorry, Jeb,” eliciting a round of laughter from the audience.

She discussed her struggles as a member of the Republican Party and the changes within the party since the recent presidential election. Navarro went on to discuss President Donald Trump’s year as president and criticized the administration’s actions. She also articulated her opinion of the silver lining to the Trump presidency.

“He has us woke. I see much more civic engagement by American citizens,” Navarro said. “For too long in America, I think we took democracy for granted.”

In the latter half of the speech, Navarro explored the question, “What is diversity?” She emphasized that diversity is not only about race and color, but also about diversity in thought, especially in politics. She called for more women in positions of power and denounced sexual assault in all forms. She ended her speech with a brief discussion on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and how close she could have been to being a DREAMer.

“It was my choice to become an American, even before I could do it legally,” Navarro said. “[DREAMers] are the best of America — they are what makes America great.”

The event concluded with a question-and-answer session devoted to engagement and activism in politics, the increasingly prevalent news about sexual harassment and the importance of higher education.

Architecture graduate student Kathryn Hendley attended the event and expressed their interest and enjoyment in her speech. 

“I like that she diverges from normal Republican discourse,” Hendley said. “She [spoke] with principle and conviction, and I really like that.”

Navarro’s speech was the fifth speech in the Excellence Through Diversity Distinguished Learning Series. Thomas Pilnik, program coordinator for the Office of Diversity and Engagement in the School of Engineering, organized the speaker series and expressed its overall goals. 

“A lot of students feel like they don’t fit in when they come to U.Va.,” Pilnik said. “[It affects] their educational opportunities here. [The Office of Diversity and Engagement hopes] to bring diverse narratives, so students feel more motivated to do well in school.”

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