“I think I have the best job in government,” said Paul Ray ’08, recently appointed acting head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
After graduating from Hillsdale College, Ray earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He has clerked in the U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit and for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. In July 2018, Ray Joined OIRA as deputy administrator. In March 2019, Ray assumed the duties of acting director.
“OIRA’s role is, in essence, to ensure that agency regulations embody the president’s policies and that the regulations are lawful and warranted by strong economic analysis,” Ray said in an email. “Under President Trump, we’ve focused on working with agencies to rescind or revise regulations that unduly restrict the liberty of the American people or that are not authorized by statute.”
Ray attributes much of his success to his Hillsdale education.
“In one sense, it’s completely impractical, because it’s about contemplating first principles, not about acquiring skills to use on the job,” Ray said. “But in another sense, learning about first principles is the most practical thing you can do, because they point the way to the goal of your activity and skills.”
Ray said he strives to continue his contemplation of first principles.
“One of the first lessons I learned after Hillsdale is how difficult it is to make time for the life of the mind out in the world,” Ray said. “Discipline is key. For me, that means getting reading in before the sun comes up.”
An English major, Ray has continued to read the classics since his graduation from Hillsdale.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Cicero lately. His ‘On the Orator’ is really a forgotten gem, especially for those of us who want practical guidance about combining the life of the mind and the life of action,” Ray said. “And of course, Chesterton’s and Eliot’s poetry are more or less constant companions.”
At Hillsdale, Ray’s study of Dante with Professor of English Stephen Smith had a major influence on his thought.
“Too many people read only the Inferno and think of Dante as a poet of anger and vengeance, but ‘the Purgatorio’ shows him as really a poet of mercy,” Ray said. “His depiction of the power of human choice and the path to the good life, not through abandonment of creation, but through properly ordered love of it, has stayed with me through the years.”
Smith remembers Ray as a wonderfully talented student.
“He had a gift for noticing what many of us overlook in our reading,” Smith said. “He would often call attention to little details in the work and make crucial connections through them. He and ‘The Divine Comedy’ were made for each other.”
Smith recalled how Ray engaged with the work.
“Paul recognized that, for Dante, the fundamental question for a human involves the real order of their loves. What do I love the most, and why? Do I love things in the best order? What’s the true order of my heart?” Smith said.
Professor of Philosophy and Religion Nathan Schlueter remembers Ray as a model student.
“I sometimes tell my students, ‘Seek ye first a true liberal arts education and the rest will be granted unto you.’ Paul Ray exemplifies this.”