Murfreesboro, Tenn. — Embattled GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain took a break from the campaign trail Thursday night to deliver a lecture at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.
The university emphasized that there would be no discussion of politics or Cain’s candidacy.
But Cain’s lecture on business and entrepreneurship soon became very political when Occupy protesters interrupted the event.
Approximately 20 minutes into the event, Occupy protesters conducted a “mic check” as Cain discussed his rise through Pillsbury and the Burger King Corporation.
A young woman stood up in the middle of the lecture hall shouting “Mic check! Mic check!” She was soon joined by three or four more students in the hall as they all began to call out their grievances.
“Dear Herman Cain, you owe an apology to the [inaudible] of America. Dear Herman Cain, you owe an apology to your country!”
As the protesters continued to list their complaints, students began booing the protestors. “Sit down! Nobody wants to hear what you have to say!”
One person screamed, “You owe an apology to Herman Cain! Sit down!”
Cain was clearly stunned but as the protesters yelled, he responded “Are you finished yet?”
At one point, one of the Occupy protesters screamed, “Sexual abuse is not acceptable!”
But the other students attending the lecture continued to boo, “Have a seat! Get out! We’re trying to learn!”
The small group of Occupy protesters gave up and left the lecture hall peacefully while chanting “We are the 99 percent! We are the 99 percent!”
Once they exited the hall, the lecture hall erupted in applause with a few even giving Cain a standing ovation.
Cain, once famously said of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, “I don’t have the facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract format he failed policies of the Obama administration. Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”
Cain laughed off the interruption. “I committed to Dean that I’m not going to address any political issues today but do you know how tempting that is. I’m not going to do it Dean. I’m not gonna do it. Not gonna do it!”
And Cain picked up right where he left off.
“I think I was on my way to becoming president of something, somebody, somewhere!” That was met with laughter and some cheers.
Cain focused his lecture on leadership. He discussed his rise from humble beginnings, to being the first in his family to earn a college diploma, and ultimately becoming the CEO and President of Godfather’s Pizza.
He also spoke at length about what steps he took to turn Godfather’s Pizza around – implementing new customer service strategies as well as the re-organizational efforts he employed to revitalize the flailing company.
Asked to describe his management style, Cain boiled it down to focus and entrepreneurship.
“I’m not afraid to try new things, you know. I’m not afraid to do things that you probably shouldn’t do like run for president”, said Cain. “But I think I have what you call and it’s been described by some people as that entrepreneurial spirit. you know, give me a problem and I want to try to figure out how to solve that problem by being creative. and the entrepreneurial factor usually signifies that people are not afraid to take risks. I’m a risk taker.”
Cain described free market enterprise and the personal freedoms that he believed make America the envy of the world.
“Don’t be embarrassed that those young people wanted to stand up and talk about they’re part of the 9-9, the 99 percent,” said Cain. “We have freedom of speech. Some people simply abuse it. that’s all. some of them abuse it.
Cain spoke about the Occupy protesters specifically.
“So that’s why I didn’t get rattled. You know all, the way I interpreted it was, they wanted to disrupt my party because they couldn’t attract anybody to come listen to them talk.”
Cain also talked about barriers that leaders are faced with.
In America, Cain said, “you can get an idea and you can do something with it and you can try things, you can succeed and you can fail. That’s what I’m passionate about when it comes to this country and that is getting some of the barriers out of the way that are preventing the American business community from growing.”
Cain told the students what he believed to be the single barrier to growing the economy, “Too much government.”
Cain called on the business majors to stay informed, involved and inspired – his usual rallying cry on the trail.
“You don’t have to become a protester, just stay involved so you’ll know what’s going on. Apathy will kill this nation,” said Cain. “Stay inspired. Don’t ever believe that we cant’ make this nation even better.”
Cain heads to South Carolina on Friday for a town hall in Rock Hill.
He then heads to his home in Atlanta, Ga. where he will see his wife for the first time since Ginger White came forward alleging a 13-year affair with the presidential candidate.
Cain has vehemently denied an affair but acknowledged that he knows Ginger White and that she was a friend that he gave a money loan to in the past.
Cain also revealed to the N.H. Union Leader on Thursday morning that his wife was unaware of the friendship or the fact that he had loaned Ginger White money.
Cain has said that he would be “reassessing” his candidacy over the next few days leading to speculation about how long the businessman will stay in the race.
Cain has said that he will drop out if his wife asks him to, but he is waiting to speak with her “face to face”. Until then, his candidacy remains an open-ended question.