Knowles, a 28-year-old Yale University graduate, recently published a book called “Reasons to Vote for Democrats: A Comprehensive Guide” The book contains 266 blank pages, suggesting that there are in fact no reasons to vote for Democrats. Over 60,000 copies of the satirical book were sold within a week. In April last year, President Donald Trump even endorsed the book with a tweet:
At this Thursday’s event, co-organized by Penn College Republicans and conservative campus publication The Statesman, Knowles will discuss his views before hosting a question and answer session.
On his Twitter account, Knowles retweeted a post by The Statesman pointing out that people had torn down posters for Thursday's event.
College sophomore and opinion editor of The Statesman Dominic Gregorio said he believes inviting Knowles to campus could help strengthen political discourse on campus.
“We chose Michael Knowles because he is eloquent, he makes arguments based in reason a lot of the time, he is a gregarious presence, and an entertaining presence,” Gregorio said. “We wanted somebody who would be able to have fun with the crowd, but who would also be able to make well-reasoned arguments about a controversial issue.”
Wharton and College sophomore and the Editor-In-Chief of The Statesman Daniel Tancredi said he hopes the talk will be the "lively" and "entertaining" discussion one would hope to encounter at an Ivy League university.
“If rigorous debate and discussion are not at home at the University of Pennsylvania, then where will they be?” Tancredi said in an interview. “American universities across the board should be the bastion of free expression — they have been in the past and they should continue to be in the future.”
Tancredi added that he also hopes inviting Knowles to campus will encourage more bipartisan discourse on campus.
College junior and Penn Democrats Communications Chair Jack Weisman agreed that bringing political discourse to Penn’s campus is a net positive.
“We have a lot of partisan events too, and we bring in a lot of Democrats,” Weisman said. “I think in a country where politics is so defined by partisanship, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with having a partisan political event. And I think dialogue is always good.”
Though he approves of political discourse, Weisman made it clear that Penn Democrats in no way approves of President Trump.
“Our thoughts on Trump and our disagreements with Trump go beyond partisanship,” Weisman said, explaining that the “dangers” the group sees in Trump have little to do with his political party. “In my mind, there never really were great reasons to vote for Trump and my opinion on that definitely hasn’t changed."
Nonetheless, Gregorio said he hopes that events featuring conservative speakers may encourage "compassion" for people with different viewpoints.
"College campuses in general aren’t optimizing on encouraging people to express themselves freely," Gregorio said. "It's definitely not that we do not have free speech, but it is that not everyone expresses themselves freely.”