'We'll have to see what the Howard students thought,' Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul shouted from an elevator Wednesday afternoon, answering MailOnline's question about whether his foray into winning the hearts and minds of black youths was successful.
Paul, a Republican darling who is already laying the groundwork for a 2016 presidential run with a coming appearance in New Hampshire, had just wrapped up a two-hour appearance at the Howard University School of Business.
Howard is among the U.S. colleges classified as 'historically black,' and the audience of approximately 300 included few white faces apart from those belonging to reporters.
'Some have said that I’m either brave or crazy to be here today,' Paul told the students, acknowledging the seeming incongruity of a Republican competing openly for the support of young African-Americans.
'I’ve never been one to watch the world go by without participating. I wake up each day hoping to make a difference,' he said.
Brian Menifee, a Howard student, unfurled a banner in the middle of Paul's remarks that indicated how much of an uphill climb Republicans have in front of them.
'Howard University Doesn't Support White Supremacy,' the banner read, a picture of which was taken outside by a Huffington Post reporter.
Campus police tackled him and released him outside the building, but the audience heard him shouting 'Yo, get the f--- off of me!' as he was led away.
Manifee said after the event that police 'threw me to the ground.'
'I wasn't saying that Paul is a white supremacist,' he told MailOnline. 'But he's the product of white privilege, so take that for whatever you think it means. It takes some real you-know-what for a white Republican to come here and speak.'
Asked if he had ever protested a white Democratic speaker with the same banner, Manifee replied, 'Well, no. We just made the banner for this event. But Bill Clinton was the last - maybe the only - white Democrat to show up at Howard and talk to us like we were grown-ups.'
In that light, Paul's appearance was especially ground-breaking. He took questions about mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders, and earned his biggest applause of the day by declaring that a 'one size fits all' approach to federal prison sentences puts young blacks at an unfair disadvantage.
'Our federal mandatory minimum sentences are simply heavy handed and arbitrary,' he said. 'They can affect anyone at any time, though they disproportionately affect those without the means to fight them.
'We should stand and loudly proclaim enough is enough. We should not have laws that ruin the lives of young men and women who have committed no violence.'
But while he supports Kentucky's recent move to legalize the industrial production of dope, he said, he doesn't endorse illicit use of marijuana.
'I think if you use it too much, you will lose IQ points,' Paul insisted, only half-joking.
'I think if you use it too much, you won't show up for class. I think you'll eat too many Doritos.'
Paul's larger societal point, though, was about the Republicans' failure to articulate what he said was a proud history of blazing civil-rights trails in ways that benefited blacks.
Most of the founders of the NAACP, he reminded the students, were Republicans. Read more via The Daily Mail...