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.