Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024

Mitt Romney is an acceptable commencement speaker

By NEIL MAHTO | April 10, 2024



Mahto argues that Romney will offer students a perspective on politics that they may otherwise disregard.

In the days since Mitt Romney was announced as the University’s 2024 commencement speaker, students on campus have expressed their disapproval of the University’s choice of such a polarizing political figure. Are not all political figures polarizing, though? 

As a leftist, I couldn’t disagree more with Romney’s politics. Among many other right-leaning beliefs, Romney is pro-life, against hiked income taxes on the wealthy and wants to repeal Obamacare. As a politician, Romney’s record is not spotless: He referred to 47% of Americans as government dependent, and said he likes “being able to fire people.” However, he has apologized for these critical mistakes from his 2012 failed campaign run. Romney would still be a terrible U.S. president, and many Americans would be hurt from his policies. Yet, Romney is not a bad person. 

While Donald Trump and many other politicians unapologetically rack up allegations of sexual assault and bigoted quotes, Romney has apologized for his misfires and has no scandal running as deep as sexual misconduct or conspiracy to defraud lawful election. Romney is simply a man who holds different political opinions to myself and other left-leaning college students. I believe Romney should speak at the commencement, and his polarizing presence could even be valuable to our community. 

Over 60% of college faculty and 50% of college students identify as liberal, while only 25% of college students identify as conservative. The essence of democracy is the reconciliation of these two schools of thought: Liberals advocate for change and progress while conservatives ensure we’re not too ambitious in altering societal fabric. Democracy and society as a whole would collapse without the presence of these two opposing ideologies. Romney could provide a much-needed novel perspective to our campus and potentially empower conservative students, who may feel outnumbered, to engage more in constructive debate with their political counterparts. 

I do not believe it is just to censor conservative viewpoints from our campus, just because they may differ from the views of the majority of the student body. It is the debate between conservatives and liberals that allows people to come together to tackle the problems that our world faces. It is not conservatives versus liberals but rather conservative and liberals versus injustice. Romney cares about injustices: His solution is simply different from yours and mine. Romney has rolled back some of his more antiquated opinions about LGBTQ rights, such as by voting for the Respect for Marriage Act.

His decision to vote to impeach Trump shows that he does not side with extremists in his political party. Politicians are human. While I never condone their mistakes because their missteps can hurt millions, Romney is allowed to change his opinion and learn from his ignorance. I still don’t have much middle ground with him, but I can respect his stances. By hearing his viewpoint, we will be challenged on our own beliefs and can come to hold more robust political opinions.

In general, political landscapes have become much more sensitive. Conversations about ideological differences often feel as if one person is taking the moral high ground. This is rarely the case. Trump is a bad person: I think it’s difficult to argue this given his xenophobia, littered record and allegations of misconduct. However, not all conservatives are Trump. Romney is a great example of a conservative with the same goals as you and me: the greater good. If I were to have a conversation with him, it would be an exchange of ideas as opposed to a haughty morality competition.

To me, Romney is dead wrong about virtually every political issue. But, maybe I am too. I want to hear his perspective. I want to converse with people on campus who hold different beliefs: It's how I've come to the beliefs I hold today. Let Romney speak at commencement, because it will foster constructive conversation on campus. 

Neil Mahto is a freshman from Albuquerque, N.M., studying Chemistry and English. 

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