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Adam Mortara and Ryan Walsh talk with stu­dents | Alexis Daniels

“You can make change in America through the Mar­shall Schol­arship,” said Adam Mortara, Mar­shall Schol­arship selection com­mittee chair and pro­fessor of law at the Uni­versity of Chicago. “I need you. So make a sac­rifice.”

In an interview-style talk last Thursday in Dow A&B, Mortara spoke with former Chief Deputy Solicitor General of Wis­consin Ryan Walsh ’09 about how Hillsdale College stu­dents are essential to forces like elite higher edu­cation and how their con­ser­v­ative and Christian values can rep­resent America through the Mar­shall Schol­arship.

“You guys are here and the rest of the world is essen­tially hostile to what we believe,” Mortara said. “And you’re going to go out there and that’s just the world we live in and we need to under­stand how to live in that world.”

Mortara is also a well-known lit­i­gator in a case against Harvard regarding affir­mative action, in which they uncovered that Harvard had con­ducted an internal inves­ti­gation on whether it was dis­crim­i­nating against Asian-American appli­cants, dis­covered it was, and swept the data analysis under the rug. He said the case made him realize that irre­spective of your opinion on affir­mative action, some­thing is “deeply wrong” with elite higher edu­cation.

“Before I let my kid go to Harvard, Princeton, or Yale, she’s got to come visit this place,” Mortara said. “That’s what I learned from the Harvard lit­i­gation.”

Walsh said despite stu­dents being chal­lenged at Hillsdale, they believe they cannot compete against elite schools such as Harvard or Yale when it comes to chal­lenging schol­ar­ships or career tracks such as law school or medical school.

“When we come to Hillsdale, many folks in this audience had perfect GPAs in high school. They come here, they’re chal­lenged,” Walsh said. “They get bad grades, they learn they don’t know how to write, they don’t know how to reason. They don’t know as much as they think they know when they apply. And we think, ‘This is a tough place, this is a rig­orous place.’”

Mortara said Hillsdale stu­dents should compete because it is imme­di­ately apparent that the stu­dents are “fully engaged, well-rounded,” and “likely to be more mature.”

 “Each of them had a more well-rounded edu­cation than vir­tually anyone else I was teaching, and that’s what I noticed about Hillsdale at first,” Mortara said. “Coming from the Mar­shall Schol­arship selection side, what I can tell you is we want Hillsdale appli­cants. Pres­ident Arnn told me earlier tonight there has never been a Hillsdale Mar­shall scholar; that is incredible to me.”

Mortara said people need to talk about Hillsdale College more, and Hillsdale College stu­dents have some­thing to rep­resent that they can fight for any­where.

“Don’t think the only place to wage this battle is in law school,” Mortara said. “That is not true. We need you out there every­where. Every­where.”

The general liberal arts edu­cation is valuable to things like the Mar­shall Schol­arship because so many appli­cants are hyper-spe­cialized, Mortara said. Mar­shall scholars pursue aca­d­emics at Cam­bridge and learn more about the UK.

“The first thing we look at is, is this person rep­re­sen­tative of America? Is he going to be a good rep­re­sen­tative of the United States in Great Britain? And is this person going to be somebody who takes what they learned in Great Britain and brings it back to the United States?” Mortara said. “You are much better equipped to do that if you are not a one-trick pony. And Hillsdale kids — men and women — are not one-trick ponies.”

Junior Abby Leali said in an email the talk was “an eye-opener” and inspired her to think “more deeply about applying.” She said Mortara was infor­mative and a “good balance between pro­fes­sion­alism and sincere love for life.”

“I got a sense of real charity from him, and his emphasis on the for­mation of the whole person made me even more inter­ested in the Mar­shall Schol­arship than I oth­erwise would have been,” Leali said.

She said many see Hillsdale as just a con­ser­v­ative force but she “would never have come to Hillsdale unless I was con­vinced that it was a safe but chal­lenging place to pursue truth.”

“I think the real Hillsdale brand are the stu­dents that the school forms: mature, outward-focused, and pas­sionate about what they’re trying to do. And they have solid reasons for the things they do, grounded in logic and, more often than not, in faith,” Leali said. “That alone really sets us apart from the crowd, I think. We know how to think, and, maybe even more impor­tantly, we learn about com­pas­sionate, con­structive dia­logue.”