A recent graduate of Yale University says his conservative values helped him to succeed in college, despite a childhood spent in broken homes and foster care.
In a New York Times op-ed titled “Why Being a Foster Care Child Made Me Conservative,” Yale graduate Rob Henderson argues that time in foster care made him appreciate conservative values, such as two-parent families and personal responsibility.
“The most successful people I know from disadvantaged backgrounds share my belief that responsibility matters.” Tweet This
Those values, Henderson says, enabled him to avoid adopting a “victim” mentality that he believes would have caused him to give up on himself.
Henderson’s conservative “cover” was blown after a classmate suggested he was a victim, to which he recounts retorting that “if someone had told me I was a victim when I was a kid, I would never have made it to the Air Force, where I served for eight years, or to Yale. I would have given up.”
Instead, Henderson recalls that his teachers encouraged him to succeed. “When I was 10, a teacher told me that if I applied myself, I could alter my future. This advice changed my life,” Henderson wrote, recounting the conversation he had with a classmate.
The classmate became suspicious, then asked Henderson if he was conservative. When he replied affirmatively, the student then inquired: “What does it actually mean to be a conservative?”
“For me, the answer is that people who came before us weren’t stupid. They were stunted in many ways. But not in every way. Older people have insights worthy of our attention,” Henderson recounted.
“One piece of inherited wisdom is the value of the two-parent family,” he noted. “It’s not fashionable to talk about this. How people raise their children is a matter of preference. But it is not really up for debate that the two-parent home is, on average, better for children.”
Personal responsibility is another conservative value that helped him succeed, Henderson told Campus Reform, explaining that his credence in personal responsibility helped carry him through his time in the Air Force and in college.
“The most successful people I know from disadvantaged backgrounds share my belief that responsibility matters,” he told Campus Reform. “They believe what they did today could change the circumstances of tomorrow.”
While Henderson was conservative before he arrived in New Haven, he says his experiences with classmates and professors only solidified his conservative views.
Though fewer than 12 percent of Yale students are conservative, Henderson says the few conservatives he did meet on campus introduced him to other conservative thinkers, such as Edmund Burke, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Thomas Sowell.
“I have also enjoyed engaging in conversation with those who share different views and challenge my own beliefs,” Henderson added, noting that conservatism isn’t a monolith.
“I’m a conservative in the narrow sense that emphasizes personal responsibility and intact families. I think highlighting these notions will lead to better outcomes for children and society,” he told Campus Reform.
After graduation, Henderson will pursue a PhD at the University of Cambridge.