Dennis Prager and Charlie Kirk returned to ASU at the "Health, Wealth & Happiness 2.0" event after months of controversy. The event, which was free to ASU students, was hosted in Katzin Music Hall on the Tempe campus.
Prager and Kirk’s reappearance on campus was announced in August in the midst of a University investigation mandated by a joint state legislative committee about potential First Amendment violations from the first "Health, Wealth & Happiness" event in February. That event was hosted by the now defunct T.W. Lewis Center of Personal Development at Barrett, the Honors College and caused many Barrett faculty to petition the attachment of the Barrett name from the event.
Before the event, students had the chance to meet with Kirk in a program sponsored by Turning Point's ASU chapter that Kirk called "Prove Me Wrong: The Government Is Lying to You."
Students filled the entirety of the 350-seat concert hall. Idan Gubeskys, a junior studying finance that attended the event, said he was looking forward to the event in hopes of hearing about how Kirk and Prager became successful.
"These are obviously two people that ended up succeeding in life, so I want to hear them talk about wealth and health," Gubeskys said. "I'm also sure they’ll throw in other political topics I look forward to hearing about as well."
The event began with state Rep. Austin Smith, R-Wittmann, a member of the ad hoc legislative committee that mandated ASU’s free speech investigation, which found no wrongdoing. Rep. Smith then welcomed and moderated a discussion between former T.W. Lewis Center executive director Ann Atkinson and the center's former founder and main donor Tom Lewis.
"ASU says it’s a bastion of free speech," Atkinson said. "I'm an alumna here, I am an alumna of Barrett, the Honors College – we can do better."
Lewis pulled his funding from the T.W. Lewis Center in June, citing the University's handling of the last "Health, Wealth & Happiness" event as the main cause. Atkinson wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in June 2022 saying she was fired for organizing last semester's event.
"As donors we will move away from public universities and hopefully thousands of other donors will do the same thing until the Michael Crows of the world begin to change their tune and stop backing the faculty over the students," Lewis said at the event.
Prager and Kirk later took the stage without a moderator and opened up the conversation with comments about the Barrett faculty that had petitioned to remove the honors college name from the first event.
"I'll choose my words carefully: the 37 professors are intellectual lightweights – that was carefully chosen – and they’re cowards," said Prager.
While on stage, Prager and Kirk said that the letter’s intent was to ban their conservative speech on campus and that ASU President Michael Crow perpetuated the faculty's stance by sending a letter to Kirk urging him to take the Barrett faculty of his "Professor Watchlist."
"See that, President Crow? You’ve created a Stalinist enterprise where you can’t be a conservative at Arizona State University," said Kirk.
Furthermore, in response to his perceived "Stalinist enterprise," Kirk repeatedly called for the defunding of the University.
"As an Arizona taxpayer, I think the Arizona House (of Representatives) needs to defund Arizona State University," said Kirk.
The event then turned to a Q&A with the audience, in which Kirk continuously encouraged audience members with opposing views to go to the front of the line. The event eventually concluded the Q&A, forcing remaining participants to take their seats due to time restraints.
Edited by Shane Brennan, Sadie Buggle and Grace Copperthite.