When Pres­ident Larry Arnn wel­comed the Class of 2020 to Hillsdale College at Fall Con­vo­cation, he said that our College is devoted to those ideas “which claim to be eternal.”

        But what on our campus speaks to the eternal nature of freedom and equality under God, or the “ines­timable blessings” we receive in the ability to study these ideas? The statues and paintings don’t count: They glorify people, not ideas.

        That is why the College should plant a redwood tree on campus.

        When the American author John Steinbeck described redwood trees in his book, “Travels With Charley,” he wrote, “The red­woods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. From them comes silence and awe… The vainest, most slap-happy, and irrev­erent of men, in the presence of red­woods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect.”

        Hillsdale doesn’t need another statue. If the core cur­riculum is to be believed, we study the foun­dation of Western Civ­i­lization during our time at Hillsdale. A thousand bronze figures could not produce the sense of awe and respect that claim should inspire in stu­dents — But even a single redwood planted in the grass behind Central Hall would do what statues cannot.

        Giant red­woods are the largest living things on earth, and stand among the oldest. The greatness of Cal­i­fornia red­woods is self-evident. Fre­quently rising to more than 300 feet, many of the mon­sters were already cen­turies old when Plato wrote The Republic.

        A redwood tree looking down on the quad behind Central Hall would help stave off the sense of com­pla­cency many stu­dents feel when studying the foun­dation of our civ­i­lization, and it would serve to cover up the dreary backside of Central Hall as an added bonus

        Only an animal could fail to appre­ciate one of the giants tow­ering over the College — and a redwood planted in Michigan would, in fact, tower over any­thing on the Hill.

        One species, the dawn redwood, is native to Michigan, but it tops out at 120 feet. The tallest of the red­woods are the giant sequoias of the West Coast, which reach more than 350 feet, and while those are not native to Michigan, they are per­fectly capable of growing in the Midwest.

        Carried over from Cal­i­fornia in a coffee can and planted in 1949, the tallest giant sequoia in Michigan resides at the Lake Bluff Bird Sanc­tuary near Man­istee, Michigan. It is now 95 feet tall and rising by more than a foot per year. If it grows to even half the height of its Cal­i­fornia cousins, it will best the 176-foot red maple that cur­rently holds the title of Michigan’s tallest tree.

        Red­woods have a life expectancy of more than 700 years, but many in Cal­i­fornia are more than 3,000 years old. Whether it lives cen­turies or mil­lennia, any tree planted on Hillsdale’s campus would likely outlast the College itself, and that is fitting.

        We claim to revere the per­manent things. So let’s plant a tree that comes as close to per­ma­nence as any living thing can.

        “They are not like any trees we know, they are ambas­sadors from another time,” Steinbeck wrote. “One feels the need to bow to unques­tioned sov­er­eigns.”

        At nearly every speech Arnn gives, he expresses his desire that the College “become more like itself.” Hillsdale is devoted to ideas that exist apart from the College, but there is no tes­tament on our campus to the fact that the things we study predate us and will outlast us.

        There should be.

Mr. Hagstrom is a senior studying pol­itics and jour­nalism.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Have we planted the Sequoia yet?