If Nikki Haley has had one thing since the moment she left her position as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., it’s been pressure to seek the highest, most prestigious office in the United States — the Hillsdale College Class of 2020 Commencement Speaker.
Recent commencement speakers have been impressive: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Vice President Mike Pence, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Robert Neller. And 164 other great men.
But don’t pick the former South Carolina governor because she’s a woman — or because she had the grit to pull the U.S. out of the U.N. Human Rights Council when it made a mockery of its purpose by allowing human-rights abusers like Congo, Iran, and Venezuela to join the council.
With no prior foreign-policy experience, Haley made her two-year performance at the U.N. more memorable than many ambassadors who served twice as long. She kicked butt (North Korea’s, to be precise, when it continued to test nuclear missiles) and took names (of U.N. member states who voted against the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel). She broke with modern foreign policy convention to act in the interest of her fellow citizens.
Pick Haley because she’s an American, in every sense of the word.
As a liberal-arts college, Hillsdale strives to produce students who work hard and exceed in a variety of disciplines. Haley, born Nimrata Randhawa, lives out that mission.
At age 12, Haley worked as a bookkeeper in her mother’s clothing shop. She graduated from Clemson University in South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and worked for a waste management corporation for a few years before returning to her mother’s clothing shop and building it into a multimillion-dollar company.
Though born to Sikh immigrants from India, Haley became a Christian later in life, and serves on the board of her local church in South Carolina. Together with her husband Michael, Haley has two children — a daughter, Rena, and a son, Nalin.
Haley, a true stateswoman, has engaged in every level of the community.
Before representing the United States at the U.N., Haley served several years in the South Carolina state legislature, engaging in her political community, too. In 2010, she was elected governor of South Carolina.
When selected to give the GOP’s response to then-President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union address, Haley, then only 44, had sage advice for her fellow Republicans.
“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference,” Haley said. “That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.”
This is advice many graduating seniors also need to hear, upon entering a loud world.
Hillsdale students begin their education hearing President Larry Arnn describe how hard it’s going to be, and so they put their boots on. After wrestling with the core class requirements for four years, after working in the library for an unhealthy number of hours each week, after studying Plato and wondering if they can actually escape the cave, Hillsdale’s seniors don’t need to hear about how hard life is — they already know. They need to be reminded why we live it.
In a recent testimonial for National Review, Haley wrote that “only by loving [America] and understanding it — and by the grace of God — will it survive.”
Love of country; understanding the principles that uphold it; the necessity of the sovereign grace of God: This is the message that graduating seniors need to hear.
This is the message Haley embodies.
Carmel Kookogey is a George Washington Fellow and a junior studying politics. She is The Collegian’s culture editor.