When Ed Feulner wrote his final Wash­ington Times column in June, he told his readers never to rest in the pursuit of great things.

“We can’t afford to become com­placent,” he wrote. “Your oppo­nents will try again, and if you’re not careful, you’ll wind up back where you started.”

Ed Feulner should speak at Hillsdale College’s 168th Com­mencement Cer­emony in May.

Hillsdale College is unique in higher edu­cation. Within this com­munity, we fight to pre­serve the foun­da­tional prin­ciples of a truly beau­tiful life, and we endeavor to live them out. Hillsdale College com­mencement speakers, then, should embody this unique mission.

Feulner knows our mission. And it wouldn’t be his first time giving the com­mencement address at Hillsdale: he gave a speech at the 152nd Com­mencement in 2004.

Feulner, a longtime pres­ident of the Her­itage Foun­dation, spent his career ensuring the sur­vival of con­ser­v­ative thought, in the same way Hillsdale, through its liberal-arts edu­cation, has taught to gen­er­a­tions of young minds since 1844.

After estab­lishing the Her­itage Foun­dation in 1973, Feulner served as the foundation’s pres­ident from 1977 to 2013 and again from 2017 to 2018. He helped build the insti­tution into the beacon of con­ser­v­ative thought many know today — or as the New York Times dubbed it, “the Parthenon of the con­ser­v­ative metropolis.” The think tank boasts its pub­li­cation, the Daily Signal, and its experts research and write about policy for members of Con­gress and other politi­cians.

Unlike the leaders of other think tanks in the latter half of the 20th century, Feulner wanted the foundation’s work to shape decision-making. Instead of writing large volumes to collect dust on shelves, or pub­lishing studies on policies after they were voted into law, Feulner wanted the Her­itage Foundation’s reports to be short and digestible for pol­i­cy­makers. Their work influ­enced many of Ronald Reagan’s policies as well as Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Feulner’s group fought com­munism through the 1980s and 1990s, and con­tinues to advocate for free markets and small gov­ernment.

Though Feulner earned degrees in English, business, and pol­itics, his wealth of knowledge and wisdom comes from his fifty years of expe­rience working alongside great thinkers, statesmen, and pol­i­cy­makers. Like the edu­ca­tional com­munity at Hillsdale College, Feulner’s orga­ni­zation part­nered with influ­ential minds like jour­nalist William F. Buckley and econ­omist Milton Friedman. He learned from them and pre­served their ideas to educate later gen­er­a­tions.

Today, as Democrats on debate stages and in Con­gress call for grandiose gov­ernment expan­sions, Feulner remains opti­mistic about the future of con­ser­vatism.

After former pres­ident Barack Obama was elected to his second term, and when Feulner retired from the Her­itage Foun­dation for the first time, Feulner wrote in the Wall Street Journal that con­ser­v­a­tives “should never despair.”

“Our sit­u­ation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust it will again,” Feulner said. “If new dif­fi­culties arise, we must only put forth new exer­tions and pro­portion our efforts to the exi­gency of the times.”

Feulner’s message aligns with the journey all stu­dents — including myself — undertook when we decided to attend Hillsdale College: the pursuit of the good. No matter the field or location, or the oppo­sition we face, this pursuit is unending.

Here, we learn about true and beau­tiful things, and we develop faith and char­acter. Here, we learn that for some­thing to be good, it must fulfill the purpose for which it is created. Here, our lives begin to take shape, and with our excep­tional edu­cation, our lives form around the pursuit of good things.

In May, my class­mates and I will walk into Christ Chapel as stu­dents. But we will leave as grad­uates with the knowledge, and more impor­tantly the respon­si­bility, to protect and keep the ideas we worked so hard to under­stand here.

Ed Feulner stands for Hillsdale College’s mission. He spent his life working to protect freedom, the fabric of our republic. And at the end of my college journey, there is no person whose hand I would rather shake at grad­u­ation than that of Ed Feulner.

Alex Nester is a senior studying eco­nomics and is The Collegian’s opinions editor.