Hillsdale College houses statues of many great minds from the 19th and 20th centuries on its “Liberty Walk”: Abraham Lincoln, Margaret Thatcher, C.S. Lewis, Frederick Douglass and Ronald Reagan. Larry P. Arnn has studied them all.
Arnn — the 12th president of Hillsdale and professor of politics and history, teaching courses on Aristotle, Winston Churchill and the U.S. Constitution — will deliver the morning lecture at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 23 in the Amphitheater, continuing Week Five’s theme, “The Life of the Spoken Word.”
“As Aristotle observes, man is a rational animal — it is his capacity for reason that separates him from the beasts,” Arnn said. “Because he has reason, he can deliberate upon what is just and unjust, what is good and evil. Further, reason makes him capable of speech, through which he deliberates on these same questions with his fellow men.”
Hillsdale is a traditionally conservative institution in southern Michigan that “believes an educated citizenry can be a powerful force for honoring, understanding and defending America’s founding principles,” according to the college’s website. It was founded by abolitionists in the Civil War era, and was progressive for its time, opening its doors to women and black students in the mid-1800s.
Hillsdale forgoes federal or state funding, and is — as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas described it — a “shining city on a hill” for conservatives. Thomas gave Hillsdale’s 2016 commencement address; Vice President Mike Pence delivered the 2018 address.
“It is through reasoned argument and learning that the student discovers what is good and true and rises to virtue and self-government,” Arnn said. “The turmoil seen on college campuses over the past decade indicates that this purpose is nearly forgotten. Colleges and students alike have stifled free speech and deliberation for the sake of ideology or security, and they have often done so violently. This is dangerous, both to the student and to the nation.”
Arnn made national headlines in 2016 when he publicly endorsed then-presidential candidate Donald Trump; Arnn was later considered for Trump’s secretary of education, but he was ultimately passed over for Betsy DeVos.
“People said to me, ‘You love Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, how can you support Trump?’ I said, ‘I didn’t know they were in the race,’ ” Arnn said in a 2017 interview with The New York Times.
In his capacity as president, Arnn has launched several new initiatives at Hillsdale and brought in leading scholars and public figures through a distinguished visiting fellowship program.
Prior to Hillsdale, Arnn was president of the Claremont Institute, a conversative think tank, and currently serves on the Heritage Foundation’s board of directors. He also lived and studied in England, working as the director of research for the late official biographer of Churchill, Sir Martin Gilbert.
Arnn is the editor of The Churchill Documents, a sub-series of Churchill’s official biography; under Arnn’s direction it will grow to a total of 31 volumes. He has authored three books.