What is The "Good"? - Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College

The February 22 LA5 speaker was Dr. Larry Arnn President of Hillsdale College.  To introduce the luncheon LA5 member Denise Anthony gave an inspiring invocation summarized as follows: 

Rotarians have a rich and splendid culture. We remember and thank all our leaders. We ask a higher power to give us strength to be aware of each of our blessings – health, family, love and education. Education is a pillar of who we are as people and our gratitude is steadfast for those who teach us, our children and our families and who, as role models, give us the daily example of what is right, decent and a framework for future growth. We extend our appreciation to our creator and bless generations of fine teachers who inspire us to enrich our lives and our institutions, and who by their example and choice of wise leadership allow us to develop more stable and joyful families and a future of which we all can be proud.  


Dr. Larry Arnn studied in California and earned his PhD. here. Then, notably, he attended Oxford University as a Rotary Fellow, where he met both his wife and Sir Martin Gilbert. Together, Dr.  Arnn and Mr. Gilbert became the official biographers of Sir Winston Churchill, a just completed 21 volume work.  

Dr. Arnn focused his talk on what is the “good,” what is the source of “liberty,” and why liberal arts education is (still) important in today’s world. 

In answer to the last question, he referred back in history to teachings of Aristotle, Socrates, Plato’s Republic and our Declaration of Independence as pillars informing today’s philosophies. He noted that we must know and understand history to understand today’s world and to use its lessons to not repeat past mistakes and to build a better world today and for tomorrow.  

In terms of the source of liberty, he cited laws of nature and nature’s god, and that liberal education is the cornerstone of liberty. 

This is also tied to the first question – that the “good” is the “true” good based on the truth.  It exists for itself. It also is what education is. Aristotle said everything seems to aim to be good, that the human mind is made to know, and the right of the free person is to know. It is an end not a means, saying that free people choose their own ends. 

Hillsdale College, a private nonsectarian liberal arts college founded in 1844 as Michigan Central College by Freewill Baptists then renamed Hillsdale College in 1853 after relocating to Hillsdale, Michigan. Hillsdale prohibits racial, religious, or sex discrimination, credited as the first American college to state this prohibition in its charter. Hillsdale requires all its 1,450 students to complete a curriculum including the Great Books and U.S. Constitution. The school accepts no federal (or state) financial support to operate free of governmental encroachment, instead relying on private donations.