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Buckley ’23: The Twisted Road to Graduation

The path to graduation for Liam Buckley ’23 has been full of twists and turns. While embracing them was intimidating, he learned overcoming adversity builds great character and resilience.

“I was originally part of the Class of 2022. It was really difficult freshman fall,” said Buckley, a political science major and Spanish minor from New York City. “Getting used to this small-town atmosphere and supplementing that with adjusting to college itself was challenging. Then the pandemic hit my sophomore year. I felt completely burned out at the end of it.”

Liam Buckley '23

As a result, Buckley decided to prioritize his mental health and take a break from Wabash.

“I took last year off and I’m really glad I did,” Buckley said. “I think it’s been important to do Wabash on my own terms.”

Buckley spent the year doing something that has brought him joy since he was a kid: working in politics.

“I have always loved elections, legislation, congress — I’m a political junkie,” said Buckley, Wabash’s former College Democrats president. “I started reading news all of the time and engaging in political conversations when I was in middle school. By the time I was in high school, I had internships and started working on local campaigns.

“Former U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone once said, ‘At the end of the day, politics is about improving people’s lives.’ I don’t think it’s much more complicated than that,” he said.

The year-long break started off with Buckley working as a campaign manager for the New York State Assembly. After his candidate dropped out of the race due to health issues, he did some political consulting before joining New York Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado’s campaign team as deputy press secretary.

“The campaign atmosphere is really adrenaline-heavy, with short timelines, and exciting work with lots of great, passionate people,” he said. “It all kind of comes together into something really exciting.”

Although he had lots of experience on his resume going into the job, Buckley admits to feeling slightly underqualified. However, he said combining his skills from previous jobs and internships with what he had learned at Wabash classroom helped him thrive in the role.

“There is a lot of pressure that comes with writing on behalf of other people. You bear the responsibility of speaking for that person. To do that effectively, you have to learn their voice, how they write, and know their platform inside-out,” Buckley said. “I ended up watching hours and hours of debate footage, and reading all past statements from five years to really get that down.

“It is rewarding to watch somebody say something you wrote, or see a small tweet or statement get amplified in a national newspaper,” Buckley continued, noting that his candidate won the race. “Being able to work on that campaign was incredible.”

Since he was a kid, Buckley’s had a passion for politics. After graduation from Wabash, the New York City native hopes to attend law school and become a public defender.

When it wrapped up, Buckley kept his promise to himself and others, and returned to Wabash.

Susan Albrecht, Wabash’s fellowship advisor and library visual media liaison, said she never doubted Buckley would make his way back to campus. Still, she felt incredibly proud when he did.

“I admire his openness about knowing that he needed to take some time for himself to reset. That takes a great level of maturity,” Albrecht said. “It’s not always easy for a student who’s taken a leave to take a deep breath and come back strong. He used that time fruitfully, rediscovered some of his strengths, and returned with boosted confidence.”

One of Buckley’s greatest accomplishments in the fall was being named one of two Moot Court winners. Acting as counsel for the petitioners, he won alongside Seth Kirkpatrick ’24, counsel for the respondents.

“I did Moot Court four times, and the last one was the charm,” Buckley said with a big smile. “I always dreamed of winning. I was able to work really hard and get more comfortable over the years. I was thrilled when it all finally paid off. I still can’t believe it.”

Scott Himsel, associate professor of political science and Wabash’s pre-law advisor, was just as thrilled to see Buckley succeed.

“I knew this mattered, but I didn’t know how much at first. He likes to win, to be the one to make the most convincing argument,” said Himsel, who has taught the senior in a handful of courses.

“I always saw him as a winner. I always saw him as a top advocate. It was so exciting to witness the judges — who had never heard him argue in this way before — agree.”

Political Science Professor Lorraine McCrary, Buckley’s academic advisor, said she’s proud of his accomplishments and growth over the last five years.

Moot Court winners Buckley (left) and Seth Kirkpatrick ’24.

“Liam has a lot of heart and passion. He has always been very good at expressing himself in the classroom conversation, but I have seen the confidence in the depth and excellence of his own ideas develop remarkably over time,” McCrary said. “I’m proud of him as a liberal arts student, and his ability to bring together his study and experiences from out in the world to enrich his work in political science.”

After graduation, Buckley plans to either return home to New York or move to Washington, D.C. to continue to work in politics. He hopes to also attend law school and become a public defender one day.

“One of the hardest things to do in life is to figure out what to do. What is my calling? Where is it that my greatest interests intersect with the world’s greatest needs? Liam is not going to have any problem figuring that out,” Himsel said. “He will be entering one of the roughest arenas in the world, but he knows he wants to be there. That, to me, is what sets Liam apart.”