Student Experience Blog

Learning from Smeed

For better or for worse, one of Caldwell's major landmarks is a large electronic billboard managed by the estate of a Mr. Ralph Smeed. Smeed was an Idaho businessman, and a College of Idaho alumnus. After passing away in 2010, his most visible legacy remains the massive message board that continues to "amuse, tantalize, and provoke the citizens of Caldwell and SW Idaho." 

The sign has landed itself in the midst of national attention for some of its messages, which are contentious at minimum. Like a large part of my age-group and demographic, I tend to lean toward the left in many of my views. I've cringed every so often as I pass it. But at the same time, it's grown on me.

If you're travelling from Boise to Caldwell, the first exit that you can take to reach the College turns onto Franklin St., parading you right past Caldwell's glimmering beacon of limited government. It's literally blocks down the road from Sterry Hall. I didn't really pay attention to it the first few times I travelled to campus, but I've been reflecting on it more each time I pass it. The sign is often the butt of many jokes among students, but I think it can serve a larger lesson to each of us.

All of my classes, regardless of the subject manner, have emphasized one point: you have to back up your arguments. It's easy to have an opinion; actually crafting a well-reasoned statement can be a formidable task. I know that if I was to talk to Mr. Smeed, he'd have plenty of sources and evidence to support his points. But I don't want my existence as a learner to follow the train of Smeed's sign: spouting claims without justification.

Lastly, Smeed's sign serves as a second reminder that reflects on the larger lessons that my time at the College has given me: no matter where you go, your view isn't and shouldn't be the only perspective in the sea. Learning how to communicate with those that don't share your vision is just as important as creating it.

-Andrew Moore

Andrew is a senior psychology major from Boise, Idaho.