Presidential candidate stops at patriotism-emphasizing Lexington charter school

Posted 4/28/23

For the second time this month, a Republican presidential hopeful appeared in Lexington County.

Vivek Ramaswamy, founder of the pharmaceutical company Roivant Sciences and the author of such books …

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Presidential candidate stops at patriotism-emphasizing Lexington charter school


For the second time this month, a Republican presidential hopeful appeared in Lexington County.

Vivek Ramaswamy, founder of the biopharmaceutical company Roivant Sciences and the author of such books as “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam,” started a day that featured three stops in Lexington at the in-progress American Leadership Academy. The tuition-free charter school, which will look to teach nearly 2,000 K-12 students with an emphasis on patriotism, is set to welcome its first pupils in August.

After a hard-hat tour, Ramaswamy became the first speaker to deliver remarks in the school’s unfinished gym/auditorium and answered questions from a few of the school’s student ambassadors. He then moved on to appear at a town hall at Hudson’s Smokehouse and a Made in SC plant tour at Tidewater Boats.

He followed Nikki Haley, the former S.C. governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who is also seeking the 2024 Republican nomination, in swinging through Lexington County, as Haley held a town hall in Gilbert earlier this month.

“I think it's a cross-section of the state. I think it's a cross-section of the country, actually,” Ramaswamy told the Chronicle when asked about why Lexington was an emphasis for him on his visit to the Palmetto State. “It's not just one slice of the population. You have a pretty good cross-section economically and otherwise of what the country actually looks like.”

The candidate emphasized that he’s looking to learn at this point in his campaign.

Indeed, Ramaswamy peppered school officials, including Cameron Runyan (superintendent/CEO of the Charter Institute at Erskine, the charter school’s authorizer) with questions about the school’s philosophy and relationship with other area schools. 

Frequently throughout the tour, Ramaswamy — who said, if elected, he would abolish the federal Department of Education and push against the unionization of public school teachers — held up institutions like the American Leadership Academy as vital to forcing public schools to compete and therefore improve. Answering one of the student questions, he made clear he is an advocate of school choice and government vouchers to attend non-public schools.

School officials made clear during the tour that their teachers will not be allowed to unionize.

Ramaswamy also held up the academy — which will feature in its lobby a picture of George Washington kneeling along with the Constitution and Bill of Rights — as the kind of institution that emphasizes diversity in a positive way by pulling together people who share common ideals.

“We're focused on opening schools that do three things,” Superintendent Runyan told the Chronicle, spelling out the values espoused by the forthcoming Lexington school and its sister institutions.

“They reinforce the values of family, they believe in our country and our Western traditions. And they produce excellence in academics and extracurricular activities.”

The Chronicle asked Ramaswamy about how he sees promoting organizations that gather people based on shared ideals applying to public schools.

“I think we need to make those institutions about the school children. I think they're held hostage by their keepers, who today are the teachers unions,” he said. “If you're representing the public, if you're a public servant, and you're unionized, who exactly are you unionizing against? You’re unionizing against the republic that you purport to represent. That's a problem.”

Ramaswamy said to continue to attract and support public school teachers in the absence of unions he would push for merit-based compensation.

The candidate also emphasized the importance of making available educational options that emphasize vocational trade skills, not just to make sure kids leave school being able to find work but to make sure that America’s industries have enough workers.

“I think that a lot of corporate America's hiring practices have become anti-meritocratic. Affirmative action, other policies, I think have created that,” he said of the need to get America back to work. “But part of that is actually not tilting the scales and giving students the incentive to say that a four-year college education might not be right for you — ‘But that's the only way you get ahead. And by the way, we'll financially incentivize you to do it.’ You force people to do that or incentivize people to do that, who actually could have made a better choice to go through vocational training or education instead.”

Runyan said Lexington’s American Leadership Academy is on pace to open in August — and it is better, as his daughter is enrolled to start classes there in the fall. There are also 12 academies in Arizona and a growing list of schools in the Carolinas, with locations slated to open in North Augusta, Greenville and Rock Hill by 2025.

“I think whether you're a parent or whether you're a presidential candidate, you see the value in that kind of education,” the superintendent said, “because you're training ... a generation that's going to respect their family, it's going to value their family, it's going to respect and value their country, it's going to be responsible, and they're going to be capable.”

vivek ramaswamy, lexington american leadership academy, republican presedential campaign, columbia politics


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