Within the 22 years since he graduated from Hillsdale College in 1997, Tom Morrison has been a journalist and a fifth-grade teacher, run a disaster clean-up business, and served as a state representative. He attributes much of his political success to his well-rounded career.
Speaking via livestream video to about 20 students at an event hosted by the Hillsdale College Young America’s Foundation chapter Tuesday night, Morrison — who serves as a Republican state representative for Illinois’ 54th district since 2011 — offered wisdom on family and politics as he shared highlights from his career post-Hillsdale.
Morrison didn’t always have politics on his mind: He majored in history and wanted to go into radio while at Hillsdale. But Steve Casai — a former greeter at the college dining hall who was fondly known as “Saga Steve” — helped connect him with the Hillsdale County Right to Life organization, Morrison said.
“It opened a door for me to get involved in politics via the right-to-life movement,” Morrison said.
Morrison moved back to the Chicago area, worked in broadcasting full time, and taught at a Christian school for a few years. Then he and his brother opened a disaster cleaning business before he ran for office.
“Hillsdale taught me to be flexible and curious,” Morrison said. “And it taught me some economics.”
On certain economic issues, Morrison has taken a strong stand. He said he refused to give Sears a tax break (“Everyone should have equal treatment under the law,” he said) and worked hard to stall a bill vying for special deals for energy companies. He is also the first Illinois legislator to opt out of the state’s pension systems.
Morrison said Hillsdale College Professor of Economics Gary Wolfram’s political economy class was the most helpful for what he’s doing today. But he also credits his history major — and other classes — for giving him an understanding of the world.
“Take it all in; always be learning,” he said. “I never feel like I’ve made it. I read as much as I can.”
Sophomore Carl Miller, president of Hillsdale’s YAF chapter, said the club asked Morrison to speak because of his compatibility with the group: Many of the YAF members are from the Chicago suburbs and interested in running for office, and as a Hillsdale alumnus, Morrison had a connection with everyone there as well.
Miller said he was most impressed with Morrison’s work-family balance and prioritization of family, something Morrison emphasized during his talk (he said he devotes almost all of his Sundays to family and tries to go “all in” when he’s with them).
Freshman Benjamin Wilson, who attended the talk, hails from Morrison’s district and has volunteered for his campaigns for six years, he said. He agreed that Morrison’s values were most impressive.
“His faith is most important to him and to me,” Wilson said, adding that Morrison got him interested in Hillsdale.
“That’s why I’m here,” he said.