“I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” — Ernest Hemingway
James Hatch is a 52-year-old retired Navy SEAL. And he’s a freshman at Yale University.
He listened for years as friends moaned about the state of American higher education. Some even referred to college students as “snowflakes,” a description that questions their resilience.
In the fall, Hatch experienced the reality of an American university, where tough, honest, diligent, kind, introspective, courageous, brilliant young adults studied beside him. They listened to his story, which is filled with blood and honor. And he listened to their stories. Many conquered adversity to arrive at this elite institution.
The phony snowflakes narrative melted.
“It’s been really refreshing for me,” Hatch says from his Connecticut home. “The students don’t make assumptions about me, and it’s awesome. It’s a really, really cool place to be.”
On Dec. 21, Hatch posted an essay/examination of his first semester on gen.medium.com. Readers instantly embraced “My Semester With the Snowflakes,” which roars toward 3 million clicks with no end in sight.
“That’s insane,” Hatch says.
Not really. Makes sense to me.
Hatch performed noble service in his essay. He exposed a fake narrative to reveal truth, and he did this exposing by departing his safe life to sit in classrooms and listen. He took a noble risk.
Want to make general and phony statements about American college students? It’s your right and your freedom as an American, Hatch says, to talk inaccurately about subjects you know nothing about.
A superior path beckons. Hatch has sat among those very students. He knows the truth.
“I don’t watch Fox News and talk (stuff) about young people anymore,” he says. “That’s not my thing.”
His thing is challenging himself, and he’s found Yale the ideal destination for his quest. Hatch is bothered by the current state of America. He hears counterfeit experts talking on cable news outlets. They know everything about everything.
One problem: These hand-waving talking heads know little to nothing about everything.
“Yale is like the anti-BS squad,” he says. “It’s cool to sit around in the dining hall or whatever they call it and just talk smack, but when you sit in class or write about something, you have to show your proof. What do you have to back it up? There’s a lack of that in the world.
“If you say something serious about something serious, you have to back it up. And being able to speak intelligently about something is something that takes work.”
Hatch served nearly 26 years in the Navy. His service ended after his role in the 2009 rescue of Bowe Bergdahl, who deserted his Army post in Afghanistan and walked into the clutches of the Taliban. Hatch suffered a thigh wound during the firefight to save Bergdahl and underwent 18 surgeries.
After retirement from the military, he founded the nonprofit Spikes K-9 Fund, which funds support for police and military dogs. Part of the support includes custom-fit bullet-proof vests for the canines.
“Dogs saved my life in combat,” he says. “I want to save dogs. They can’t speak. They are not volunteers.”
His nonprofit led him to Yale. He wants to become a more effective communicator for what he calls “his mission.” He says he’s raised more than $1.5 million to offer aid to dogs in 44 states.
The Yale alumni magazine ran a feature on Hatch when he was accepted as the university’s oldest freshman. A few days later, Hatch received an email.
“The feminists and leftists are going to come after you,” read the email, a typical missive from what Hatch calls “a self-created synopsis of world affairs.”
Reality squashed propaganda. Hatch has yet to meet a student who meets the description of snowflake. He has met hard-working seekers of truth.
All school year, Hatch has pondered a statement by Ernest Hemingway, the gifted and tormented American novelist.
“Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters,” wrote Hemingway, always obsessed by the men who murdered bulls while thousands watched.
“I disagree,” Hatch says.
We can all, he says, embrace full, all-the-way-up lives if we listen and learn and strive and refuse to remain stuck in fake narratives.
Hatch often laughs, and he’s roaring with glee as he considers the upcoming semester. It’s been a fun, exhausting ride with so many fresh surprises ahead.
On Veterans Day, a Yale student surprised Hatch with a card filled with hand-written messages.
The card thanked a truth-telling 52-year-old student for his service to country.