Classes of 2017,
Congratulations! On behalf of the Claremont Independent, a leader in conservative and libertarian thought on campus, I would like to welcome you to the Claremont Colleges. Whether you will be making Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona or Scripps your home for the next four years, you’ve chosen a wonderful institution of higher learning and have become part of an intercollegiate community unlike any other.
One of the most memorable experiences leading up to my enrollment at CMC was the roommate selection process, with which I’m sure you are all intimately familiar by now. I remember refreshing my student email account dozens of times daily in search of the much-anticipated announcement of whom I would be rooming with for the next nine months.
When I finally received the name, I did the only reasonable thing possible and immediately found my soon-to-be roommate on Facebook. But before I even had the chance to find out which books he had read, what movies he liked, or who he was in general (as much as one can glean from Facebook), I was dismayed to see the profile picture of some ginger with glasses holding a poster that read: “Obamacare: Saves $, Saves Lives.”
A ginger, I can deal with – but a Democrat? That was too much. I showed my staunchly conservative father the photo, and he was aghast. “I thought CMC was supposed to be the conservative school,” he remarked. Questions of my impending indoctrination immediately followed. Would I end up like my older sister – the sociology major – who left Right and came back home Left?
When I finally got to campus and met my roommate, we got the pleasantries and formalities out of the way and went straight for the jugular: Are you an elephant or a donkey? Naturally, he said he was a big-government Democrat (he would go on to manage the Obama reelection campaign on campus), and I confirmed that I was a small-government conservative with strong libertarian overtones. The tension in the air was thick. After a long pause, he finally responded, “Cool. I respect that.”
Over the course of the school year, we challenged each other’s political beliefs on a seemingly nightly basis. We debated and discussed everything related to politics imaginable: Obamacare, abortion, gay marriage, free markets, regulation, sustainable energy, federalism, education reform, church vs. state, illegal immigration, marijuana legalization, Moon colonies, the one percent, the 47 percent, Paul Ryan’s deep blue eyes, and, most contentiously, to which political party each incarnation of Batman would have belonged and which would have made the most suitable president.
Not only did I learn more about Batman than I ever planned or hoped to, but I also made tremendous strides as a political thinker through these discussions. Neither of us was particularly successful in changing the other’s mind, but I think we both acquired a newfound respect for our political rivals on the other end of the spectrum and became great friends in the process. (The story is currently being made into a Disney Channel original movie.)
In case you haven’t already noticed, we are a very politically charged consortium of colleges. Although you just missed election season, emotions still run high on all things politics, and we don’t always do the best job of respecting our counterparts on the other side of the aisle.
I encourage you to embrace the political culture on campus. Join the Claremont Libertarians, Claremont College Republicans or Democrats of the Claremont Colleges. Come write for the Claremont Independent – and if we’re full, the Port Side. Find some way to get involved in the ongoing debate – it’s one of the best parts of our community – but do so courteously and with a more open mind than I did initially.
Amazingly enough, my roommate and I got along so well that we’ll be rooming together again this year. It just goes to show you, it’s possible to get along with anybody – even a Democrat.
Brad Richardson CMC ’15