Photo Courtesy of Quinlan Odom / Turning Point USA
Political education, grassroots activism and re-branding free market ideals are all goals of Turning Point USA on the MTSU campus.
Turning Point USA is a nationally recognized political education organization with chapters at over 1,000 college campuses. According to the TPUSA website, some of the group’s main principles are the organization and promotion of “fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.” Despite the main principles in place, each chapter is welcome to structure and expand their group on an individual campus level.
The organization is fairly new at MTSU, but the chapter president, Dalton Cantrell, and vice president, Sage Kafsky, have helped Turning Point USA hit the ground running. Cantrell and Kafsky are both third-year students at MTSU, majoring in history and political science. Cantrell founded the chapter at the beginning of this semester and has recruited 25 active members since then.
“A lot of us involved did not have a place to express what we thought,” Cantrell said. “This organization gives them that outlet. So, even if they don’t go into a government policy related job, they still have that secure feeling.”
Kafsky added, “Turning Point is good about giving everyone a voice and leveling the playing field. The ability to make your voice heard is not contingent on where you rank in the outside world.”
Turning Point USA is listed as a non-partisan organization, and students of any political affiliation are welcome to join. To gather student interest, Cantrell will often stand in one of the designated free-speech zones on the campus. There, he allows students to write anything they wish on a giant multi-colored beach ball aptly titled, “The Free Speech Ball.”
“What it focuses on are the positives and negatives of free speech and suppressed speech, because those issues happen often on college campuses,” Cantrell said while discussing the purposes of The Free Speech Ball.
Free Speech Ball events are also meant to raise awareness for the free-speech zones on campus. Besides grabbing student attention with the Free Speech Ball, Turning Point USA will soon be hosting an event on campus entitled, “Throwing the Election.” During this event, the organization plans to have one of their members wear a Donald Trump mask while another member wears a Hillary Clinton mask. Students will be able to pay to throw pies in the face of their least favorite political figure.
“It’s something to poke fun at what’s going on, but, at the same time, when you have that comedic or interactive approach, it causes people to come up and ask a question,” Cantrell said.
The chapter wishes to hold future events involving speakers or Tennessee political representatives to provide students with the platform to better understand local government.
“Our events are not necessarily in defiance of the current political structure,” Cantrell said. “They are more based on enlightening individuals about what is really going on so that we can change the behavior.”
The organization also holds training workshops and establishes opportunities for students to begin their professional experience in internships.
“It is very helpful opportunistically,” Kafsky said. There is a large amount of availability for paid and unpaid internships all across the country.”
In addition to the larger events, the MTSU chapter holds meeting at least twice a month. Most of the meetings include specific talking points leading to active discussion and planning future events. Both Cantrell and Kafsky spoke about their goals regarding the individual political education of members.
“I think the information is out there for the American public to find if they choose to look,” Kafsky said. “The best way to strengthen your own stance is to recognize that no ideology is going to be perfect. If you can understand that, you can work together to find solutions.”
“What I would label us as is a college-level think tank,” Cantrell explained. “We put our minds together so that we can hear all the different approaches. But then it is about that self-education process.”
From a local to a national level, one of the chapter’s main goals is to encourage students to become involved with issues that they care about and vote in government elections.
“It disappoints me when I hear students say that they will not be voting this time around,” Cantrell said. “When they are not voting, then they are not getting their voice out. If you are offended, then you are learning something. That’s something that I live by.”