For his latest digital short, conservative documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz took a few hours to have some conversations with George Washington University students about the nearly 200-year-old institution’s name. Should the university change its name because its namesake owned slaves? The result, Horowitz reports, was a stunning 70% of the students with whom he spoke told him they think it’s time to cast off the name of America’s first and most famous president.
“Controversy has been raging across our country as people tear down objectionable monuments and change the names of institutions that connote evil,” says Horowitz, who took to the campus of GW to see how students feel about the name of their historic university.
“Do you think it’s time for us to consider changing the name of the university?” Horowitz asked students. While a few expressed some hesitancy on weighing in on such a big issue, and some said no, Horowitz says 70% of those he asked the question were ready to officially expel America’s revered founding president.
“Personally, I would change the name,” said one female student, who later went on to draw an equivalence between Washington and KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest.
“I think that it should be changed. I think that recognition is super-important,” said one male student. Asked what he means by “recognition,” he explained, “Recognition for who he was as a person.”
“That was 1776. It’s 2018,” he said. “I think it’s important we realize and reupholster the systems that built us.” Asked what’s the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of George Washington, the student responded, “I think of him owning slaves.”
“I don’t agree with the slave trade,” said another female student, “so yeah.”
“Sure, I think we should change the name,” said another student. “It’s not to say that he wasn’t an important man back then; it’s just saying that in this day and age, he’s not as important.”
“I would probably change the name, but I would do so universally,” suggested one girl. “If I would change the name of GW, then I would advocate that things named after slaveholders in general should be changed.”
“We’ve sort of retrospectively mythologized this concept of liberty and freedom,” said another male student.
While 70% of the students were ready to remove Washington, Horowitz says 30% were not, including one guy who asked, “If we forget liberty, if we forget the intrinsic nature behind the Founders’ philosophy of liberty, then what exactly do we have?”