In his Facebook watch series “returning the favor,” Mike Rowe travels the country in search of remarkable people making a dif­ference in their com­mu­nities. | Facebook

Mike Rowe is right in the middle of the action when filming his hit tele­vision show, “Dirty Jobs.” Whether it’s making fire­works or walking city sewers, Rowe is in the thick of whatever dis­gusting, and often demeaning, task his show is cov­ering. 

The show is his ode to hard work, a way to showcase the back-breaking, thankless jobs done by so many Amer­icans. Rowe cham­pions the nitty-gritty. 

As the 2021 com­mencement speaker, Mike Rowe could give per­spective to a Hillsdale College edu­cation.

At Hillsdale, we do the aca­demic equiv­alent: we pour our­selves into ancient texts and primary sources, having dif­ficult con­ver­sa­tions about unsolvable topics. It’s a dif­ferent kind of nitty gritty, one that happens in the com­fortable chairs of the student union, latte in hand, sewage nowhere to be seen.

 We see a lot of merit in what we do here, in how we approach edu­cation. However, our lives at school tend to be fairly easy. Exis­tence at Hillsdale College, save walking to class in the ‘polar vortex,’ is fairly com­fortable.

Rowe sees dignity in hard, honest work. The jobs show­cased in “Dirty Jobs” are the backbone of our nation. Sludging through sewage might not be glam­orous, but it is nec­essary to keep society clean. Rowe could speak of the integrity required to do this kind of work.

For Rowe, it doesn’t matter if these indi­viduals have a college degree. What matters is how well they do their jobs.

His foun­dation, Mike Rowe Works, has pro­vided $5 million in schol­ar­ships for indi­viduals learning trade skills through his Work Ethic Schol­arship Pro­grams. Addi­tionally, he hosts the Facebook Watch series “Returning the Favor,” in which he travels to all corners of the United States, pro­filing local heroes and pro­viding them with more resources to further their work in their com­mu­nities. 

Rowe could present Hillsdale stu­dents with some­thing they don’t often hear. He could make the case for roll-up-your-sleeves, dirty work. He could speak of success that’s not deter­mined by the amount of extracur­ric­ulars you’re involved in or the per­fection of your GPA. 

At Hillsdale, we’re often told of the uniqueness of our edu­cation — of how priv­i­leged we are to go here. That’s all true. The Hillsdale edu­cation differs greatly from that of a standard American uni­versity. Those who study here are truly blessed. 

A Hillsdale degree does not equal success, however. A piece of paper does not and will not make one’s way in the world. To truly do justice to the degree earned, we must achieve some­thing with it. One must have integrity and a will­ingness to do the work that life requires.

Rowe’s entire brand is built upon integrity and hard work. Hillsdale College stu­dents do not lack these attributes, but a reminder of the impor­tance of these char­ac­ter­istics could prove ben­e­ficial as grad­uates prepare to begin their lives. 

In addition to speaking to Hillsdale stu­dents about some­thing we don’t often hear, Rowe could also speak to things we know well. Hillsdale stu­dents are all marked by a curiosity about the world. We come here to learn about the world, to explore those things we’re pas­sionate about, and even the things we’re not. 

Rowe’s career is marked by curiosity. Whether nar­rating a nature doc­u­mentary or recording an episode of his podcast “The Way I Heard It,” Rowe approaches every­thing he does with an insa­tiable curiosity and a desire to learn about the world. As Hillsdale’s com­mencement speaker, Rowe could speak to our curiosity and call us to explore our pas­sions.

Another point for Rowe is his political affil­i­ation. More specif­i­cally, that he doesn’t have one. Rowe is famously neutral in pol­itics. In this time of political polar­ization, Rowe is a good choice for Hillsdale. Hillsdale College stu­dents come from dif­ferent reli­gious and political back­grounds. As pol­itics con­tinue to split apart fam­ilies and friend­ships, Rowe will be a refreshing break from that divide. 

Mike Rowe is the right choice for com­mencement speaker. The man has wrangled snakes and cas­trated sheep. He’s been in places and done things that most of us don’t even want to imagine. Someone like that probably has some­thing to teach us. As the curious stu­dents we are, let’s give him a chance to do it.


Regan Meyer is a senior studying Rhetoric & Public Address.