Scott Morrison ’14 – Ben Kesling ’02 ha spent his entire life “finding his major” with his liberal arts perspective on life. Monday evening, Kesling gave the fourth and final talk in a series called “The Liberal Arts at Work.”
I was privileged to have dinner with Kesling and a few of my fellow current students and then attend his talk titled “Don’t Bury the Lede, A Few Thoughts on the Liberal Arts.”
Kesling’s career has embodied the utility of a liberal arts education. A religion major and member of Sigma Chi Fraternity at Wabash, he went on to attain a graduate degree from the Harvard Divinity School.
About that time, the war in Iraq was beginning, and Kesling was faced with a decision. “I sat and watched the initial invasion of Iraq on a television in a common room in grad school housing,” Kesling said. “I was able to wrestle with these questions of war, politics, and humanity thanks in large part to the liberal arts mindset that I had been able to build. I was able to think not only to the arguments being made prima facie but to the motivations behind those arguments.”
Kesling made up his mind to serve his country as a member of the United States Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. After deciding that a career in the Marine Corps was not for him, Kesling went to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern on the GI Bill. He left Medill before graduating in order to pursue his career opportunities and now works for the Wall Street Journal.
His message to students was focused on the importance that liberal arts has had on his life. To Kesling, the liberal arts is not simple dilettantism which entails mere dabbling in subjects in a superficial way.
“A liberal arts approach to life is having the ability and willingness to study a variety of subjects, the capacity to focus in on one when need be, and the humanity to make connections between everything,” Kesling said. “[It is] Like a good physician who knows all of the various organs and muscles in the body and can tell you a great deal about any single one of them but realizes also that the whole physical enterprise ceases to function without the sinews, tendons, and ligaments that connect those parts together.”
Kesling’s liberal arts background and his desire to learn and explore new subjects helped make him be successful as a graduate student, a member of the Marine Corps, and a journalist.
His message was comforting and inspiring as a 22-year-old senior who knows that life may hold a lot of twists and turns ahead. As Kesling never thought he would be a Marine or a journalist while he was at Wabash, I do not know what I may be pursing five to ten years from now.
I would like to thank Dr. Herzog and Wabash College for bringing alumni like Ben Kesling back to Wabash to share their advice and perspectives.