(Jan. 3) Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who this week is leaving the U.S. Senate to become president of the University of Florida, gave valedictory remarks on Tuesday that reminded some of us why we’re angry that he’s leaving.

It must be granted that large universities desperately need wise and competent leadership, and that Sasse can do a lot of good at the flagship college of the nation’s fastest-growing state. Still, there’s a case to be made that his exit from the Senate is an abandonment of a unique and salutary opportunity. He is relinquishing status as one of only 100 people nationwide with a hands-on chance to fix those things in today’s sociopolitical order that his speech identified as being broken. Having signed up for another six-year term of manning the national Senate ramparts, he absconds after two years to plant his flag in a largely regional redoubt.

Nonetheless, Sasse’s final Senate speech was full of insight and wisdom, a profound civics lesson in just 20 minutes. His overarching theme was that strong, largely voluntary civic organizations and an embrace of political pluralism are this nation’s strengths, while a cult of victimhood and political zealotry are pathologies that threaten us.

With all quotations below being perhaps a tad inexact (because I took notes on the fly and no transcript is yet available at this writing), Sasse’s most incisive lines included the following:

We must be “against the story of victimhood and the narrative of oppression,” and also against the “prophets of despair” and “political addicts.” The radicals on both sides are wrong to “shout that persuasion is a crutch for the weak for those too cowardly to fight.” Instead, we must welcome vigorous political debate in the confidence that persuasion is still both possible and the best means toward workable solutions…. [The full column is here.]


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