Graduating from Politics

The last few weeks of any senior’s time at Hamilton are rife with reflection. Through all the final papers and presentations, it is exciting to look forward to a postgraduate life but also nostalgic to consider how Hamilton has changed each of us. I know, through positively and negatively impactful experiences, that Hamilton has shaped me in innumerable ways. The Alexander Hamilton Institute and my connection to political controversy on campus through this publication have certainly helped define my political views and how I see myself participating in politics at all after graduation. One of the many things I am looking forward to upon graduating is leaving behind a political categorization game which is played by both students and faculty.

Hamilton, like many colleges, loves stereotypes. The light side/dark side rivalry is cute and fun. Our categorization and limitation of individuals from diverse range of backgrounds at Hamilton is more troubling. Not only does the sorting of our peers into stereotypes make us lazy members of a community; it also kills any chance of meaningful improvement in students' treatment of each other or in conversation.

Another student involved with the College Republicans my freshman year once expressed his frustration at my participation in the group because I was not conservative enough for his liking. To him, I was the definition of a RINO, a phrase often used in the party which means “Republican In Name Only.” Looking back, I could see why some Republicans would call me that. As a woman who acknowledges the existence of climate change, I did not fit the stereotype of this crowd.In the next few years, through my involvement in the AHI, I was encouraged to think critically and to use historical facts to support an argument, and learned how to define my own political opinions. However, in these four years, I can recount only a few  times I have had conversations about the practical problems of our country, solutions to problems, or how students want to get involved in politics. My conversations with those whom I identified most closely with politically died the moment I was categorized as “other” by these self-selecting conservatives on campus.

Hamilton has taught me how to approach problems with reason and forethought, and to consider multiple perspectives on how to approach problems facing our campus community and our country. The most frustrating element of politics on college campuses is how lazy the participants tend to be. Not only are students and professors typically unwilling to engage in uncomfortable discussions.  In addition, any possible discussions are held in such a safe intellectual space that there is no effort to thoughtfully consider the effects of a belief or policy. I look forward to having the choice, after graduation, to enter political discussions when I find I can make an impact or contribute to the conversation. On campus, students or at least those who aren’t “progressive” are constantly confronted with meaningless and shallow political discussions in every aspect of their lives.

I look forward to leaving behind the negative spiral of political discussion and inaction that occurs on campus. I look forward to having the opportunity (and responsibility) to work for impactful, positive changes in an atmosphere of unnecessary and unproductive categorization. Hamilton has taught me well how to approach policy with measured restraint and deliberation. I think I will step back from daily political drivel once I graduate, at least until I can positively apply the skills which Hamilton, the AHI, and my peers have given me in the last four years.