God and Man at Your Local College

American colleges and universities must be open to ideas that protect human dignity.

A student wears a mortarboard with a pro-life message during a May 17, 2009, commencement ceremony at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.
A student wears a mortarboard with a pro-life message during a May 17, 2009, commencement ceremony at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. (photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images)

Recent events at academic institutions of excellence have caused many of us to reconsider what really is an appropriate environment in which to educate our youth. Where do we want our young people to learn the necessary skills to get a job? What is free speech on a campus? What is education?

As a teenager, I was blessed with the best of a college education by parents who had given up the opportunity to be college graduates to support the war effort during World War II. They sacrificed so that my siblings and I could avoid a life of manual labor working in a factory. Forty years ago, that academic quality was still at the finest of universities, but an agenda of political correctness was expanding. I was permitted to publish articles in defense of the pro-life movement in my college’s newspaper, but it was within an environment increasingly hostile to conservative students. And the openness of support for abortion was clearly unacceptable as we all look back on the devastation of decades of Roe v. Wade.

Like other conservative students, I graduated but withheld my donations. I wrote letters of protest to the alumni office and even discussed significant societal issues with students phoning for donations on behalf of my schools. Those of us who in the end remained close to God could see the discriminatory practices of the schools that nevertheless had done well by us academically.

For years, I gave my donations instead to a Catholic college of my choice, but I now question the low empathy among many American Christians for the cause of Ukraine in defense of freedom and democracy and also the lack of concern for Russian expansionism. While I am pleased to find Christian alternatives in schools supporting conservative domestic principles, I see the need to advocate work with other Western countries so that free societies may flourish.

It is in times such as today that I recall the work, My Country and the World, written by Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov in 1975. In it, Sakharov discusses the necessity of living a moral life. On eliminating challenges to a country’s domestic morality, Sakharov writes:

I am convinced that they can be alleviated, not by a continuation and intensification of repressions, but only through a moral upsurge, through people’s turning to simple and true values shared by all mankind, through bringing the people of the world closer together, through the things that make people happier and give them more spiritual freedom.

On the international scene, Sakharov calls for the cooperation of nations:

Most pressing of all is the unity of the Western countries; a unified strategy for the entire expanding set of problems in relations with the socialist countries and those of the Third World.

Sakharov also encourages, “Not only individuals but governments and international organizations must be concerned with defending human rights throughout the world, with the same criteria for all countries.”

I want to see American colleges and universities open to ideas that protect the dignity of human life both in the U.S. and abroad. But I also hope for the growth of American academic institutions that support freedom and democracy throughout the world. It is this atmosphere of human solidarity that makes graduates most amenable to humane solutions in any sphere of influence.