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Rep. Tom Mor­rison of Illinois spoke to Hillsdale stu­dents Tuesday night about pol­itics and family. Nicole Ault | Col­legian

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.