Speaker of the House Khadija Arib addressed Van Raak and all the other outgoing MPs. She specifically referred to his work as a ‘renowned’ spokesperson for kingdom relations, his books on politics and philosophy, and finally, his efforts on behalf of the Dutch Whistleblowers’ Authority and the binding corrective referendum.

“What was more unexpected was the debate with Prime Minister Rutte when the Ministry of General Affairs’ budget was debated. That was one of the greatest debates I’ve had the honour of presiding over. You got the prime minister, who has been known to say that you need to see an ophthalmologist if you need a vision, to actually share a vision.” When she gave him the floor, she admitted that she wasn’t sure what his chair in Erasmian Values entailed: ‘which means… It sounds interesting, but I’m sure you’ll tell us about it in a bit!’

Portrait of Erasmus

During his speech, Van Raak analysed the well-known portrait of Erasmus, which he had in his study while serving as a member of parliament. “This is an ugly reproduction, which cost fifty cents at a flea market organised by a reformed church. I don’t think that church had any idea of just how valuable he was. What we see here is a wise man, completely in charge, his face turned away. His cap alone is a sign of wisdom. This is completely due to imaging. Getting himself across like that was quite an achievement, because if you look carefully, you’ll see a twinkle in the eye and a smile. He’s smiling inwardly about the image he has created for himself. When I used to enter my study, I would always take a quick look at Erasmus’s smile, just to put things into perspective.”

Van Raak’s message: “As an MP, you’ll have an image. Don’t take that image too seriously. That was an important lesson for me to learn – that the person and the job of MP are not to be confused. If you get them mixed up, you may end up in trouble. Of course you must score points, make yourself more prominent and be visible. But those of us who are leaving today realise better than most that we are just passers-by. We hold these seats for a while. The job will still be here after us; we were merely borrowing it for a while. And the job must be continued without any damage.”

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Van Raak is also an alumnus of Erasmus University. He graduated in 1996, having specialised in Social History and Philosophy. In 2000 he was awarded a PhD by the University of Amsterdam (UvA) for a thesis on conservatism in the Netherlands. During his time as a politician he wrote several books touching on politics and philosophy.

Now Van Raak will become a Professor of Erasmian Values at Erasmus University Rotterdam, an appointment that will see him return to the faculty where he was once a student. At ESPhil he will seek to answer topical questions on academic freedom, research integrity and society’s faith in science.