Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich stressed his desire to return the country to its religious values and reform Social Security Wednesday.

Gingrich’s talk in Gaston Hall sparked a protest on Copley Lawn that drew about 20 students chanting and holding signs.

At the lecture, Gingrich introduced a proposal to partially privatize Social Security. Under his plan, taxpayers would manage a private savings account with funds drawn from their paychecks. Contributions from employers would continue to fund the Social Security trust.

“It turns out, according to the official actuary for social security, if we had adopted in 1983 a personal social security savings account model, we would today have over $16 trillion in savings accounts,” Gingrich said.

Opponents of Gingrich’s plan argue that the 2008 financial crisis would have destroyed private Social Security accounts, had his plan already been implemented. Gingrich, however, defended his plan.

“If you look at what happened to the stock market in 2008 and 2009, a person, even after the decline of the stock market, would have dramatically more money than they would have gotten out of the traditional system,” he said.

Before the lecture, about 20 people chanted phrases holding signs reading “The 1%” and criticizing Gingrich’s desire for less campaign finance restriction. The protesters initially stationed themselves on the sidewalk adjacent to Healy Circle, but were asked to move to Copley Lawn in accordance with university rules.

“We want Newt to keep his hands off our Social Security,” protest attendee Cole Stangler (SFS ’13) said.

Other protesters criticized Gingrich for his views on social issues and his recent comments about the killing of Trayvon Martin.

“We support civil discourse and understand its importance, but there is nothing civil about Newt’s anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-equality speech. Excluding the 99 percent since 1979 is most uncivil,” English professor and protest attendee Jennifer Fink said.

In his lecture, Gingrich asserted that the American work ethic stemmed from deep-seated religious values.

“We’re the only society where power comes from God to each one of you personally,” Gingrich said. “You are personally sovereign. You loan power to the state. The state does not loan power toyou.”

In an interview with campus media, Gingrich expressed discontent with the Obama administration’s mandate requiring universities and hospitals, including those with religious affiliations, to provide contraceptive coverage in their employees’ and students’ health care plans.

“I don’t understand why [anyone] would suggest that religious universities should be forced by a civil government to violate their religious beliefs,” he said. “It’s pretty simple: are we a country founded on religious liberty or not? If we are, then who is the government to define that liberty?” he told The Hoya.

In light of recent cuts to his campaign staff, Gingrich also emphasized that he intends to continue his bid for the Republican nomination.

“We streamlined the campaign precisely to be able to continue to [the GOP convention in] Tampa.  There’s a big difference between streamlining and suspending,” Gingrich told The Hoya. “I think [presidential candidate Mitt] Romney clearly has not yet gotten a majority, nobody thinks he has gotten a majority, so why would I quit?”

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