Sharpened Through Adversity: Thriving in Academia


This is the word Isaiah Ben Amoz used to describe the period of Israelite captivity under Babylonian rule during the 8th century. It was a refinement through the furnace.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48:10).

This bold statement to the Israelites resonates, and is one which many of us should consider when facing adversity at our universities. Academia might be seen as a modern manifestation of Babylon. However, it should not make us faint of heart to be in such a place. On the contrary, it ought to give us joy and a stride in our step. College is an environment where the secularism and intellectual homogeneity are overwhelming, so in that same sense, it provides a perfect setting for students to speak truth to darkness.

As an advocate myself, I’ve sought to empower those around me through a presentation of perspectives which stand in stark contrast to the campus norm. Boldness shouldn’t be considered a negative approach to discussing policy issues, but rather one which is commendable and deserving of an attentive audience.

Professors usually tend to enjoy student engagement, and one way of supporting that is challenging them with an organized set of thoughts, one which balances their curriculum. In a paradoxical way, conservative students can be the greatest educators to their peers, and their position on campus makes them highly effective. Gandhi said that “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” How valuable is this statement for students like myself.

I’ve experienced an abundance of opposition during my work as a campus activist for freedom. However, most faculty members were not the first to disregard my views. That honor would go to their fellow administrators. The greatest obstacle to student activism for myself, was a bureaucratic administration which discriminated based on viewpoint. It’s usually the conservative students which are relegated to a dusty corner of the school’s “free speech zone​.” 

Luckily for students like myself, and anyone who pursues objective truth, there’s a wealth of resources and support for our movement. Being an advocate for the values of our founders may mean we’re typically a minority, but it doesn’t mean we lack the resources to change the narrative.

Being strengthened through the fire of intolerance, conservatives on campus continue to be some of the boldest advocates for these transcendent values in which our founders rooted this nation. Samuel Adams referred to a tireless irate minority, setting brushfires of freedom, and conservatives are just that. The infamous Rousseau asserted this truth in 1761 when he stated “Man is too noble a being to serve simply as the instrument for others . . .” Conservatives see the individual as immensely valuable and our approach must be to smile and take our stride in the face of opposition. All too often do conservatives concede; they become fearful of backlash and hide under quiet appeasement.

To speak truth to darkness means refusing to concede, it means standing athwart history as beacons of liberty, not willful sheep. I encourage my peers to refuse political contempt, to rally behind what we know is true, and to act as educators in a place where intellectualism may be a mere shadow of its former self.

What happens in Washington should never dictate our beliefs, and we must remember those who came before us, because they’re cheering us on from above.

Taylor Samuelson studies Strategic Corporate Communication at Saddleback College. A chairman and activist with Young Americans for Freedom, he has brought speakers like David French, Star Parker, Bay Buchanan, and others to his campus. He is editor in chief of Summit Press Publications. 

Join ISI

Your time at college is too important to get a shallow education in which viewpoints are shut out and rigorous discussion is shut down.

Explore intellectual conservatism
Join a vibrant community of students and scholars
Defend your principles

Other posts you might like