Brett Kavanaugh will be President Donald Trump’s greatest legacy. For the first time in generations, the Supreme Court has a conservative majority. To celebrate this new era of American politics, Hillsdale should invite Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to speak at its 2019 Commencement.
Kavanaugh is an audacious choice for commencement speaker. Just like Hillsdale, Kavanaugh is a bulwark against progressive liberalism. This is why Democrats so ruthlessly attempted to stop his confirmation. Kavanaugh’s defense of his reputation and family amidst sexual assault allegations is a great example of strength rejoicing in the challenge. Nothing deterred Kavanaugh — not the Democrats’ obvious delay tactics, Christine Blasey Ford’s uncorroborated allegations, or the activists clawing at the door as he was sworn in.
Kavanaugh embodies much of what Hillsdale as an institution stands for. As a textualist, Kavanaugh cares about the correct interpretation of the Constitution and he understands that government exists to protect individual liberties. Though he often deferred to precedent in his decisions as a lower court judge, as a member of the Supreme Court he has said his only authority will be the Constitution.
Kavanaugh’s judicial record speaks for itself. Kavanaugh sided with Hobby Lobby in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, an important 2015 case in which the craft store argued that the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate infringed upon its religious liberty. Kavanaugh has also shown his conservative inclination on financial regulations, school choice, and the Second Amendment.
Kavanaugh is committed to the separation of powers. For example, he is skeptical of Chevron Deference, a 1984 precedent that says courts should defer to regulatory agencies when interpreting ambiguous laws instead of to Congress. Additionally, during his tenure on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Kavanaugh was known for denying the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate when he believed it was acting without the authorization of Congress.
Kavanaugh also understands the proper role of the judiciary and will fight against the court’s tendency to usurp Congress’s power by making laws instead of adjudicating them. In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing he said, “In our independent Judiciary, the Supreme Court is the last line of defense for the separation of powers, and the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Kavanaugh is not just a good judge, he is also a good man. After Kavanaugh accepted Trump’s nomination for the Supreme Court, he left the White House to serve the homeless at his local parish. Charity is part of his normal life routine, just as he coaches his daughter’s basketball team and hangs out at a bar where he is simply known as Brett.
Moreover, Kavanaugh is an advocate for social change. As he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “A majority of my 48 law clerks over the last 12 years have been women.” Kavanaugh has sent more female law clerks to the Supreme Court than any other judge in the country. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary, his women law clerks wrote that he is one of the strongest advocates in the federal judiciary for women lawyers and the legal profession is a more fair and equal place because of him. In an effort to continue this trend, Kavanaugh is now the first Justice on the Supreme Court to have an all female staff of law clerks.
Justice Kavanaugh was humble throughout the confirmation process. During the two days of questioning, Democrats attempted to halt the proceedings numerous times, and protestors interrupted 63 times on the first day alone. The protests were so disturbing that Kavanaugh’s wife had to remove his two young daughters from the hearings. Throughout all of this, Kavanaugh remained courteous.
It wasn’t until Democrats and activists assailed his personal reputation and threatened his family that Kavanaugh’s demeanor changed. They attacked him in an area he is particularly proud of — his treatment of women. With little evidence, he was accused of heinous crimes. In his opening statement, he vacillated between angrily accusing Democrats of ruining his reputation for partisan ends and choking back sobs as he denied any and all allegations of sexual assault. Kavanaugh’s reserve during the first hearing made his assertiveness during the second hearing all the more important. He demonstrated that strength does not mean meekness. He proved that a man can be both moderate and courageous.
Having Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a commencement speaker would be a great honor to Hillsdale. His commitment to the Constitution, his character, and his record as a judge all do him credit, and inviting him to Hillsdale would do this institution credit. It would show students an excellent example of statesmanship just as they prepare to begin their own careers, ones that will hopefully mirror the integrity and audacity of Kavanaugh’s.
Krystina Skurk is a student at the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship.