Four years into my higher education and I’m still a Republican. (Go ahead and settle up your bets.)
I say “four years in” and not “almost out” because, the truth is, I’m not even halfway done. I’ll be going grad school in the fall, and even if I weren’t, I sincerely hope I wouldn’t be finished with my education. Hopefully, I will never be finished with that.
Robert Frost once said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” Sage words for a conservative in the blue city of Ithaca. I’ve met many, in fact, who wondered why I came to such a liberal school in such a liberal town. Why not go to Pepperdine? Or Hillsdale, a college essentially dedicated to promoting conservative political values?
The first part of my answer is that, frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would want to be surrounded by only like-minded people. Despite the public sentiment to the contrary, as a conservative, I really do value diversity. I cannot imagine how dull life would be if I talked only to other conservatives. Indeed, some of the most influential people in my life, some of the people I am most grateful to know, hold political opinions vastly different from my own.
Were I surrounded only by political yes-men, I also cannot imagine how weak my convictions would be. The best test for convictions, after all, is opposition. I’ve found that the best way to be sure of yourself is to listen to what others have to say. The best way to know your own opinions— their strengths, weaknesses, and true foundations— is to learn the opinions of others.
My time at Cornell has confirmed these theories. Being in constant contact with people willing to discuss, to engage, and to analyze issues from a variety of different perspectives has given me extraordinary opportunities for intellectual and personal growth. As Cornell students, I urge Review readers to take advantage of these opportunities: Involve yourselves in the campus community, partake in discussion and debate of all kinds, and under no circumstances cut yourselves off from those with whom you disagree.
Don’t get me wrong, if you do this, you may find yourself convinced by an opposing argument; you may find yourself changing your opinions. But that is no great loss. It is a far greater loss to live and believe in error for lack of a will to learn. This is my advice to you as students and citizens.
I have another piece of advice for you as conservatives. When the time comes—and it will come— that you have been stuck in a stuffy, dark classroom for hours on end, mulling over quasi (or full-on) socialist ideology with your professors, that you feel you are on the brink, I encourage you to do one thing. Step outside, take a breath of fresh air, and simply take a moment to think on how beautiful it is that people are free.
Lucia Rafanelli is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.