On December 16 1988 Ronald Reagan visited the University of Virginia for a major address, which he began by paying tribute to its founder Thomas Jefferson: “ … all you do here, indeed, all of higher education in America, bears signs, too, of his transforming genius. The pursuit of science, the study of the great works, the value of free inquiry, in short, the very idea of [the] living the life of the mind -- yes, these formative and abiding principles of higher education in America had their first and firmest advocate, and their greatest embodiment, in a tall, fair-headed, friendly man who watched this university take form from the mountainside where he lived, the university whose founding he called a crowning achievement to a long and well-spent life. “.
So, Republican friends, here’s an opportunity for you. We have heard nothing like that from your party for years. “Life of the mind?” “The study of the great works?” How refreshing it would be to hear such language again, from the right or from the left. So, here’s my advice – plagiarize. Take Reagan’s words, repeat them or restate them in your own way. But no speaking out of both sides of your mouth. Back the words up with moral and financial support. We’re listening, and waiting.