Ben Stein’s Day Off: Republican Pundit Visits Campus

Ben Stein's Day Off: Republican Pundit Visits Campus

Maggie Fried

He may be known as the boring teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but when President of the University and Professor of Philosophy and Religion Rebecca Chopp introduced Ben Stein to the packed audience in Memorial Chapel Tuesday evening, she showed that Stein is much more than just an actor. Stein, who was the valedictorian of his Yale Law School class, is not only a television and film actor but a professor, economist, journalist and author as well.

For the majority of his speech, Stein “advised” teenagers on how to best ruin their lives, a spinoff of his most rccent published work, How To Ruin Your Life. His list of ways to ruin your life ranged from “treat the people that are good to you badly” to “when you borrow money don’t pay it back” to “use drugs and alcohol freely.”

“Some points were pretty obvious,” sophomore Ross Secler said, “but he mentioned some good thoughts that really serve to give a reality-check for some people.”

Despite the underlying serious message of his speech, Stein’s sarcastic and comical tone often elicited laughter from the audience. After describing how teenagers can ruin their lives, Stein briefly outlined “ways for America to ruin its life” and ended with “ways to save your life.”

After speaking for about an hour Stein took questions from the audience and at the conclusion of the question and answer session a reception was held.

Earlier in the day, Stein walked around campus, which he described in his speech as a “little slice of paradise,” and took time to speak with students and faculty as well as pose for photos.

“[Sophomore] TJ Gunerman and I took Ben on a tour of campus and Ben said ‘hello’ to literally every individual he passed, sophomore event organizer Andrew Spano said. “He must have had a two minute conversation with over 100 students and faculty. It was incredible and quite amusing seeing the expressions on people’s faces.”

Later on in the day, Stein had dinner with members of College Republicans as well as faculty members at the Colgate Inn. The dinner, which Stein referred to several times throughout his speech, gave the attendees the chance to discuss various topics with Stein.

“Ben, being the friendly gentleman he is, wanted to know what everyone wanted to be doing in five years. So everyone shared with him. We also spoke about his ideals and thoughts from various issues that he has dealt with in his diverse career such as his time under Nixon, his admiration for Martin Luther King, Jr., and much more,” Spano said.

It is Stein’s personality as well as his ability to reach a diverse audience that led the College Republicans, who planned the event, to invite him to Colgate.

“College Republicans met back last semester, and we decided to bring in a speaker,” Spano said. In the end, Ben Stein won out as our choice because we wanted a speaker who was able to reach out to everyone in a way that would set off ‘Welcome Back Week’ on the right note. Ben was that speaker. We wanted something that was not too partisan, and How To Ruin Your Life was like a gift on a platter. He always gives a tribute to the troops, which was something I was extremely enamored with when I enquired more about him in our initial search.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Young America’s Foundation, a conservative group that holds events for high school and college students, as well as the Pre-Law Society and Student Lecture Forum.

Although, like Secler, much of the audience might only have known Stein as the Ferris Bueller and ‘Clear Eyes’ guy, he showed the audience through his speech not only that he is much more than an actor, but that he views other actors as far less important than those people who dedicate their time and lives to protecting America.