John Cats, Jr. Leads NYU’s Republicans

NEW YORK – John Catsimatidis, Jr., whose father, John Sr., a Nisyrian-born, New York-raised self-made billionaire is the very embodiment of the American Dream, is not resting on the family laurels. Recently named one of the ten most influential students at New York University (NYU) by the college’s newspaper Washington Square News (WSN), the younger Catsimatidis is blazing his own trail – in politics.
Not in terms of running for office, but in raising awareness among the new generation of voters – his fellow college students at NYU and throughout New York State – about what it means to be a Republican. WSN aptly described Catsimatidis, who is President of NYU’s College Republicans (NYUCR), as “a small, red dot of conservatism at arguably one of the most liberal schools in the country.”
A number of Americans are concerned that higher education in the United States is too slanted to the left, and that conservative students are victims of bias in terms of grading, but “I have not personally experienced grading penalties for my beliefs from professors,” Catsimatidis told TNH. “But I hear that students have had difficulty finding jobs or internships in journalism if they are known to be affiliated with Republican ideals,” he added, consistent with the theory that the American media is also disproportionately left of center.
Even if professors treat all students fairly in terms of grading, do they present all points of view equally, or do they give more weight to their own ideologies? “I have noticed that some professors (of many different subjects) do leak their beliefs into classroom discussion,” Catsimatidis said. “This may not be intentional, but is quite noticeable if you are familiar with the views of each side.”
Catsimatidis, accordingly, has positive things to say about NYU professors overall. Nonetheless, he believes in the old adage that “college should teach students how to think and not what to think.”
Then, there is the perception that even though liberals often pride themselves on being open-minded, they are quick to make blanket generalizations about Republicans without looking at each one as an individual. “We had a great speaker this semester who addressed this issue,” Catsimatidis told TNH, “and many of our members supported her explanation and proposed solution. She explained that the aggression toward Republicans on these types of issues lies in an overall failure to formulate messaging properly. There is the impression, as she stated, that Republican positions on social issues are primarily driven by religious ideology. She said that in order to navigate away from this, it is important to explain Republican positions in a secular and relatable way.”
What about Catsimatidis’ fellow students, who are predominantly liberal? How does he go about conveying to them that being Republican does not make someone a monster? “There have been a few ways that we found successful for improving the impression of Republicans on campus,” he told TNH. “The first job is to identify the demographic and what the main reasons are for their skepticism. NYUCR pride ourselves on having speakers with a wide gamut of conservative beliefs. I try to make it known that our meetings are not just for those who identify themselves as Republican, but for everyone. Because of this, members of other campus political organizations come to our meetings: college Democrats, Libertarians and various pro-Israel groups.”
Catsimatidis is happy to have found that college students are issue-driven rather than party-driven, and attributes NYUCR’s success to “our passionate and diverse membership,” who “encourage their friends and peers at NYU to learn about the Republican Party [firsthand], rather than believe what the media portrays.”
Primarily, he thinks, “Republicans have a bad image on campuses because people don’t understand the party and what it stands for. We helped organize a pan-political debate this past semester with every political organization on campus, which had a very large turnout. I believe more events like the debate in the future are beneficial to changing opinion about the Republican Party.”
Consistent with his “how to think not what to think” philosophy about a college education, Catsimatidis says NYUCR have grown” exponentially in size, had great speakers, and worked hard during the most recent election to volunteer for candidates around New York City. My greatest feeling as a result of my involvement at NYU is seeing how many new people have learned about the political process and have been able to determine to what party they truly belong.”
Branching beyond the walls of New York University to reach young Republicans throughout the Empire State, Catsimatidis last year was elected Chairman of the New York Federation of College Republicans (NYFCR). He gives the credit to the organization’s numerous leaders for its success throughout the state. “I could not be more proud of the Regional Chairs’ and other leaders’ work,” he told TNH. Chapters from around the state rallied in support of Republican candidates during the last election and one of our regional chairs and chapter leaders was responsible for organizing a College Republican phone bank that made over 35,000 calls for a candidate in Upstate New York. On the national level, he credits Alex Smith, Chairman of the College Republican National Committee, for having done “an amazing job to help build the party on campuses around the country.”
If Catsimatidis’ leadership ability has a lot to do with success in promoting Republicanism among New York State’s college students, his reasonable approach makes a difference as well. He is neither blindly partisan nor an extremist. “I believe that as a result of the nature of my leadership positions,” he says, “I should not directly convey my beliefs about a certain issue or candidate, and I really view my duty as facilitating the discussion of issues and candidates to help members decide what they truly believe.”
Catsimatidis Sr., whose businesses include Red Apple and Gristedes supermarkets, in his 2013 NYC Mayoral bid explained how his ideology is far more sophisticated than a narrowly-tailored political pigeonhole: “Am I a Republican? Yes. Am I a Democrat? Yes. Am I a conservative? Yes. Am I a liberal? Yes.” As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: his son told WSN and reiterated to TNH, “if people learned about all sides of an issue or party and still chose to be a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Independent, I would be very happy.”


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