I would like to extend the Tory’s congratulations and welcome to the Class of 2021! We at the Tory are glad that you have decided to join us here at this great institution. We look forward to meeting many of you individually over the coming months, and we hope that some of you will get involved with the Tory—as editors, writers, or readers.
One piece of acquired wisdom for our newest Princetonians: Your time here at Princeton will likely constitute some of the best years of your life—you have much to look forward to as you grow academically, professionally, and socially—but the quality of your experience will depend on the energy and attitude with which you approach the many opportunities available to you.
There are, of course, a few particular practices that you should adopt in order to best position yourself for success. Firstly, make a plan for your education. In the midst of the many responsibilities and choices that you will face as Princeton student, it is easy to let valuable opportunities pass you by. Committing to a clear (but always-flexible) plan will help to prevent that. Secondly, don’t be constrained by contemporary academia’s technocratic and overly specialized approach to education. Instead, seek out classic fields of study that address timeless questions about human nature, that equip you with the sort of broad-based knowledge helpful for answering questions of great import, and that bring you closer to the Truth. Thirdly, engage in serious conversation with those around you. The professors at Princeton are first-rate, and your own classmates are among the brightest students in the country. It would be a shame if you did not hear their perspective on questions that interest you.
On the topic of conversation: we return to campus this year with much to discuss. This summer has been an eventful one, both for our country and for our University. Debates have erupted on the national level regarding the status of ‘transgender’ individuals in the military, congressional attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, continuing federal investigations into Russian involvement in the 2016 election and renewed investigations into the conduct of former Attorney General Lorretta Lynch, President Trump’s tough stance against the North Korean nuclear program, and recent conflicts between Alt-Right and Leftist protestors in Charlottesville and elsewhere. Princeton too has had its share of headline-grabbing developments. One of our graduate students has been imprisoned in Iran on apparently unfounded charges of espionage. President Eisgruber has waded into a renewed debate on affirmative action policies. And the University has hired a controversial new ‘Men’s Engagement Manager’ to combat ‘toxic masculinity’ (though it remains unclear what exactly is so toxic about it).
These issues are many, they can be complex, and they are often emotionally charged. To address them in a meaningful way requires an open mind and a willingness to engage respectfully with ideas different, often radically so, from our own—including ideas that we may find discomforting or even deeply offensive. It requires that we be courteous towards one another, but also and even more so that we be willing to speak out strongly against false ideas and immoral behaviors. The identity politics of today tells us that we cannot criticize a person’s beliefs without hating the person himself. But this is a false and dangerous notion that stifles debate. You certainly can criticize ideas and behaviors without hating the person who harbors or practices them. In fact, disagreement that is aimed towards helping another reach a better understanding of the Truth is a necessary expression of goodwill.
The Tory is, as always, committed to exactly that sort of conversation—courteous disagreement aimed towards a fuller realization of the Truth—and we hope you are too. So, as the Tory attempts to unpack these and other issues in our articles this semester, we invite you to share your thoughts in response. I will gladly respond to any email, and publish any letter-to-the-editor, that productively challenges the arguments put forth in this magazine.