Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn told his students and their parents in a video message that this unprecedented period of time in America is a “test of character and intellect of the kind that shapes human souls and portrays them in their excellence.”
Arnn delivered his video message Friday as Hillsdale students move to online classes Monday due to the outbreak of the coronavirus that originated in China:
Why character? Well, it’ll be easy, won’t it? To sink into some kind of lassitude while you’re away: Not everybody’s here; you don’t see people in person; there are plenty of distractions. And yet it’s true that nobody ever learned any serious thing except by intensity. You’ve got to work hard. Everybody does, every minute, to know any great or important thing, any serious thing, it always requires that.
Arnn continued about the radical changes that have occurred in a short time within the country:
Everything is in motion. The stock market’s never fallen as far or as fast as it’s fallen. I don’t know that we’ve ever attempted to suspend the work in great countries for months at a time in time of peace. In fact, never in war for that matter. We’re trying radical new things, and it looks like there aren’t any rules, but there’s something to notice in the middle of all that.
These events in society, how are we to understand them? It raises the whole question, “What is the purpose of life? Is it just to live? Is it to live well? What does ‘living well’ take? What requirements are there in this radical situation?”
Arnn said the questions the current crisis raises are “exactly what Hillsdale College was founded to think about”:
That is it’s activity. That’s what it does. And now it gets to do it in a new way, under some adversity. So, the test of character, it’s not heightened—because college itself, as is every difficult thing that is a test of character, and a formation of character, too—but it’s a new kind of test.
Because it’s a shameful thing to waste a day of your life, especially if you’re young and talented. Because what you do today will affect all the days to come, and you have many to come.
Hillsdale’s website identifies the school as an independent, nonsectarian Christian institution founded in 1844. The college accepts no federal taxpayer funding, and any financial aid that is extended is through private contributions.
Arnn explained to Hillsdale students in his video message that, regardless of whether they are present in person or having classes online, “we are going to use this time to the maximum effect.”
“And then the minute I can justify a decision to come back, I will invite you all back with great joy and pleasure,” he added. “In the meantime, get ready for Monday. Get your boots on. Let’s have a great term.”