On Wednesday, Feb. 5, Miami University officials announced that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine will serve as the spring 2020 commencement speaker.
This news was met with varying opinions from the Miami community. Some current students, alumni and parents threatened to boycott the ceremony and faulted the university administration for being “too conservative" on Miami's Facebook page. Others believed that, in today’s divided climate, commencement speakers shouldn’t be political figures.
A few praised the decision, citing DeWine’s long history of public service in Ohio and his exemplification of the Code of Love and Honor.
I had the honor of interning for "Team DeWine" on his gubernatorial campaign in 2018, the summer following my freshman year. Before I started, I didn’t know what I believed nor who I wanted to become. I grew up in a conservative household, but I was hesitant to take a side when I arrived at Miami because I didn’t want anyone to label me as racist, misogynistic or anything that fits the typical (but false) Republican stereotype of today.
But, on Team DeWine, I found a campaign full of people with one mission: Create a better future for all Ohioans.
I’ve only heard hope and optimism from DeWine and his team. DeWine holds conservative values, but I never witnessed any talk of policies or actions that were solely based on partisan interest. To DeWine, it’s about every Ohioan, especially those who will inherit Ohio long after he leaves office.
Despite being on the campaign trail and serving as attorney general, DeWine took the time out of his busy days to get to know the other interns and me. Whenever I wore Miami apparel, he’d smile, shake my hand and point out the “Big M” on my chest. He’d tell me of his grandchildren who are third-generation Miamians.
As an intern, I was given valuable work that made a difference. I traveled all over the state to knock on doors, march in parades, staff fundraisers and much more.
My favorite moments were when DeWine and Jon Husted, his running mate and then-Secretary of State, unveiled wide-reaching initiatives to help Ohioans thrive. From more affordable healthcare, programs to make more college and workforce-ready students, cleaning up Lake Erie and creating a more efficient government — Team DeWine covered it all. One year into his term, DeWine’s administration has kept these promises.
While interning in the governor’s office this past summer, tornadoes devastated the city of Dayton. Just weeks later, a mass shooting occurred in the same community, claiming the lives of nine Ohioans. On both occasions, I walked into the office to find every member of DeWine's team working together to find the best way to solve these crises — from emergency briefings, touring the damage and reaching out to victims.
I could tell only a few things were important to them: confirming everyone was safe, getting help to those affected and ensuring that Ohioans are better protected in the future.
Throughout his nearly 45 years in public service, DeWine has been someone who’s led not for himself, but for the thousands of vulnerable Ohioans and Americans (especially children) who deserve a brighter future.
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At 9 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, three hours before he took his oath of office among family and friends in his home, DeWine gathered his grandchildren in the middle of his yard. Together they shoveled through a foot of snow and then dug another couple feet into the ground to plant a buckeye tree.
“My grandfather kept planting trees up until his death in his mid-80s,” DeWine said in his inaugural address the next day. “At that time, I thought, he’s never going to live to see those trees get very big. Yet he planted them nonetheless.”
DeWine has planted trees within me. He’s a man with a big heart, always looking out for those who have less than him. All the while, he works to bring people together. Someday, I hope to make the same impact. DeWine has made Ohio, and this world, a better place.
On May 16, Gov. DeWine will plant more trees by inspiring members of my graduating class to create their version of a better world.
Jordan D. Conner is a senior studying political science and strategic communication. He graduates in May.