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Dr. Larry Arnn On Receiving The Bradley Prize

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HH: It’s the last radio hour of the week. That means it’s time for the Hillsdale Dialogue. All of the Hillsdale Dialogues dating back to January of 2013 are available at And all of the Hillsdale online courses, which have done so much to edify, inform and educate America are available at And all that Hillsdale has done over the last many decades is the reason that on Wednesday night in Washington, D.C., the president of that august institution, Larry P. Arnn, received a Bradley Prize. I read from the program in front of me. Since 1985, the Bradley Foundation has made grants to institutions that have come to us with good ideas for improving our lives and our communities. Through these grants, we’ve been able to support effective programs and policies. The Bradley Prize program focuses on ideas that shape good public policy by celebrating the achievements of individuals in areas consistent with the foundation’s mission statement. Nominations were solicited from a national panel of more than 200 prominent individuals involved in academia, public policy, research journalism, civic affairs and the arts. Nominations were evaluated by a selection committee, which made recommendations to the foundation’s board of directors. And last night, four individuals were honored with Bradley Prize awards in front of an audience of more than a thousand in the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. I was in the top row of the audience along with Dr. Charles Krauthammer and some other wonderful people, and the first recipient was none other than Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College. And he was fantastic in his results last night, and he joins me now. Dr. Arnn, welcome, it’s great to have you.

LA: Thank you, Hugh. I come before you a prized turkey.

HH: (laughing) Well, that was special, and you didn’t trip. I was kind of hoping you’d stumble a little bit.

LA: Oh, gosh, you know, they give you this, the symbol of the Bradley Foundation is a lion, and they give you this glass lion, and it weighs a ton. And so you had to practice having it put in your hand so you didn’t fall over.

HH: Yeah, and you did that very well.

LA: Yeah.

HH: And the you gave you remarks, and you went first. And so that’s always a little tricky to have to do. And I tweeted out a picture of you on the big screen so that people could see you were receiving this. That’s why I sat way in the back row so I could get the whole thing. But were you ready? You’ve done a lot of big audiences, but this is a special deal, the Kennedy Center and the Bradley Prize. Were there any butterflies?

LA: Yeah, sure. You know, first of all, you know, I never did this before, and never will again. And so bright lights, very big hall, and bright lights, I couldn’t see anybody. I never did see you, Hugh.

HH: Oh, I was way in the back. You wouldn’t have seen me.

LA: And then an orchestra, and so they’re playing when you come up, and then they stop. And they hand you this lion, and Michael Grebe, a really great guy, hands you this lion. And you put the lion down, and then you’ve got to give your remarks. And oh, they played a video about one, about me.

HH: I loved the video, by the way. I did see the hero shot. That was a great shot.

LA: Oh, that was very funny. And your name, I can now disclose, was on my list of people to interview, and they didn’t pick you, probably because you’re far away. So Tom Cotton and Pat Sajak, who are friends of mine, and the provost of the college, David Whalen, said a bunch of stuff about me, and I was trying to absorb that. And then the video ends, and ta-da, the orchestra goes, and then I’m supposed to give a talk. And so I gave, I wrote a serious talk, and I first of all think the times are very dangerous, and second of all, because of that, I think it’s not time for us to be celebrating our honoring each other. And so my talk was to establish what my privileges are in my life, they’re very many, and to establish that fact, that it’s not really a triumphant time right now. And so I gave a serious talk, and I don’t know how it went. But…

HH: I want to go back over that talk. It went very well. And I also want to put it in the context of the other talks that occurred this evening. It was wonderful to have Lee Greenwood sing and to have Sarah Pfisterer sing as well. But the essence of the evening are the four talks. And I’ll come back to yours last. And I’ll begin with perhaps the lightest of them, which was by your academic colleague. First of all, George Will is magnificent as the presider-in-chief. He does his homework, and he constructs an absolutely beautiful introduction for each of you that reflects that he dove deeply into his subject matter. You know, I’ve never seen a more elegant effort made in that role.

LA: He does it every year, as I’ve been four or five times and seen it a few times. But I think he’s like, it occurred to me last night while he was doing it, how will they ever replace him in the distant day when he can’t do it anymore?

HH: Right.

LA: I mean, and I also noticed about him that during the day, one encounters him a few times. I’ve known him for years, but he’s a great man. And I noticed throughout the reception before, for example, there’s a little private reception, he was working at a table studiously paying attention to nothing else, on these remarks.

HH: Did you notice as well his impeccable timing?

LA: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, he’s, I’ll bet he had it from the beginning, but he’s done this a few times. And he’s done it 11 times now. And I think he’s been the emcee from the beginning. And he’s very good at it, of course, and he knows a lot.

HH: It is very important not to rush. You didn’t rush, either. None of the recipients did. But it’s very important not to rush in order that both laugh lines be allowed to be, General Keane saying he’s not a funny man is itself a funny line. But let’s turn to this. The first recipient after you was James Ceaser, and I must confess, I am not acquainted with James Ceaser, but I love his license plate, Federalist49. Would you tell people a little bit about James Ceaser and why he was honored?

LA: Well, I’ve knows this guy forever and ever. He’s a brilliant guy, and a hilarious guy, as you saw last night. He’s a professor at the University of Virginia, He’s a political scientist. He’s one of the best in the country, and one of the most renowned, and also he’s of good principle, which means he’s extremely isolated like the rest of us in the academy. And you know, at UVA lately, there have been, you know, the witches out about, the witch hunt on, anyway, about every kind of thing, including these sexual harassment charges and all that. And he wrote a very nice piece. He didn’t win for that. He won for the body of his work, I imagine, because his work is very good, very insightful and good. But he’s been protesting that in an academic environment, we’re punishing speech now, and we’re punishing it before anybody even has due process.

HH: Right.

LA: And so he stood up to that.

HH: He spoke out in favor of due process today, that justice cannot coexist without it.

LA: That’s right, yeah.

HH: And so it was a marvelous sort of mild rebuke. There was a second rebuke given of Brandeis University a little bit later, but the second speaker, I’m going to come back to. And the third speaker, General Keane, I’m going to come back to in a second. The last speaker was Ayaan Ali Hirsi, who had in fact been chased off the stage at Brandeis, her invitation revoked. Interestingly, although I think it is the tradition that standing ovations not be given, she was given one before she spoke, I think as a tribute to her physical courage. Would you agree with that?

LA: Oh, yeah. So I, she’s, I have known her for quite a long time. I almost turned her into a student at Hillsdale College, and then she met her husband, the historian, Niall Ferguson, a famous man who was there last night, although I didn’t see him, and so she went off with that guy instead of coming to study with us. But she is, she is from Somalia, and she has spoken out against the persecution of women in that country and in that culture, and she’s on a death list, and has been for years now. And she travels with security. And so she’s not a martyr, thank God, but she’s threatened with that. And that’s her. And she’s also, by the way, fair and gentle. She’s got a grace about her. She’s a very nice person. She is not fierce sounding, although she expresses a fierce determination. So I thought she was very effective.

HH: And not strident.

LA: No.

HH: In fact, I noticed in the reception afterwards, and I did not see you on Wednesday night, I saw you on Thursday night, but I didn’t see you on Wednesday night, that the crowd there is full of good people…

LA: Yeah.

HH: …none of whom are strident. Isn’t it interesting who gathers for such an occasion like this, whether it’s Krauthammer and Will, but they’re not strident. They are purposeful, though.

LA: You know, I’ve, the Bradley Foundation, so I started in the conservative movement, you might say, I guess when I went to graduate school in 1974. But you know, working in it, when I went to work for the Claremont Institute in 1981, and that’s a long time now. It means I’m old. And the Bradley Foundation started in 1986, and I knew them in the first year, because I’ve been around, so, and they’re the best, by the way. They’re very smart. There’s funny things about that event last night that I could mention that they have tailored to make it more effective, and very shrewdly. But over the years, so they’ve been giving these awards now for 11 years, and I’ve been several times. But when I go, I know a very large percentage of the people there…

HH: Yup.

LA: …and wonder about that. I always say gosh, I’m so old now, I know everybody here.

HH: (laughing) When we come back, we’re going to talk about General Keane, and about Dr. Arnn’s speech in that order. Don’t go anywhere. It was supposed to be Lincoln-Douglas’ third debate, and we will do that next week. But these were important addresses, and I want to talk about them when we return to this week’s Hillsdale Dialogue. Stay tuned.

— – – — –

HH: And I have to tell you, it was an unusual day for me, Larry, as I began the day flying cross-country with a monkey, the monkey that stars in Night At The Museum and Hangover II. He’s grossed a billion and a half dollars in five movies, and he was across from me in first class on American Airlines. And it ended with your introduction. And if my mom were still alive, I would send her a note, mom, mentioned in a speech tonight at the Kennedy Center in the same breath as Harry Jaffa and Winston Churchill and Martin Gilbert, thought you would be proud. Now I might leave out some of the details, but it was nevertheless very sweet of you to give me a shout out.

LA: (laughing)

HH: Now people are going to get the wrongful impression that we’re friends pretty soon, Arnn, because the people who were sitting around me gave me big jokes and good chuckles, etc. And we’ll come back to that. But General Keane got up, and I want to come to your speech after the break and save two segments for it, and have you basically give it again. But General Keane approached, and he’s a man who alone in an Oval Office surrounded by eight people and President Bush argued in 2006 that the President had no choice but to surge troops and save the situation. And how would you summarize the message that he gave on Wednesday night?

LA: Well, he’s a warrior for a free country.

HH: Yup.

LA: So he gave a speech like that. He started out by being grateful to people, and his wife, by the way, who has got Parkinson’s, and his devotion to her for more than half a century is touching, and one could see it last night. But then he eschewed the idea that he was capable of being funny, which made everybody laugh, and then he gave a survey as you said before of what’s going on in the world. And he and I had talked about some of that. This ISIS thing, by the way, is a, it is death to the West if it prospers, and it goes from strength to strength. And it recruits successfully in the West by offering meaning to people, young, Western students, especially. He told me before how they go to college campuses and look around for people who are not as connected as other people, people who are isolated, and then start making a big deal out of them. And they offer them a way of life. And then people take to that. And you know, if you look at the condition of our universities today, many of them don’t offer much in the way of a positive way of life. And so he also mentioned, he told about the danger they are, and how many countries they’ve taken over, which is seven, I think, and how they’re building an empire, and how they’re growing and growing, and they’ve never really had a big setback. He told me privately that there’s something in ISIS that was never seen in al Qaeda, and that is they put them into channels, once you get recruited by these guys, and one is to fight, and one is, another channel is to destroy yourself. And they let you make the choice, but once you’ve made it, you’ve made it. And if you try to leave, they kill you, and they kill you in front of other people who have also been recruited. And so these guys are fierce. They’re very fierce.

HH: And on the day you received your prize, and General Keane received his, the French prime minister announced that 100 Frenchmen had died in Iraq and Syria in the service of ISIS, and you can extrapolate from that that far more have not died, and are remaining fighters and picking up skill set. And a lone wolf jihadi, not lone, actually operating in a triad in Boston, had attempted to kill police and was shot dead, so that it’s metastasis. You began at 30,000 feet, and you talked that we are now in our third crisis, something that will be familiar, we’ll come back after the break. And then he kind of explained it would be as though you were Lincoln predicting the Civil War, and Keane were to lay out exactly how big a trouble it would be to conquer the South. That’s what I got from last night, is that they actually crescendoed it, whether they did so intentionally or not, they crescendoed it correctly by having you set the stage, having Keane lay out the strategic plan or the parameters of the battlefield, and then having Ayaan Hirsi Ali talk about the ferocity with which the other side believes.

LA: That’s, yeah, that’s right, and see, it’s the belief on that side, and the absence of belief on our side that is so obviously striking, right? And you can’t generate belief out of nothing. There has to be some argument. There has to be some beauty and good and conviction, that is to say convincing things that appeal to people. And it looks to me like we’ve lost so much of ours. And these people are strengthening all the time.

HH: Now I had spent some time earlier in the day with one of the individuals who introduced you by, via film, Senator Tom Cotton. And he is willing to make the argument, and he is gathering into that group of Senators who are serious about this. But I don’t know that given the lapse of the Patriot Act and the passage of the flawed USA Freedom Act that the Washington political class is up to date with what Americans think about this war. I don’t think they’re nearly as worried about the war as Jack Keane, Larry Arnn, Hugh Hewitt and Tom Cotton are.

LA: That’s right, and you know, it’s a shame, right, because I wish, you know, it could come down to this. I wish Tom Cotton were four years older, because you know, who knows who’d be in the presidential race. But one of the things that affects this is the dynamics of the presidential race, because of the candidates is pushing against this Patriot Act stuff, and he’s got polling that’s two years old, four years old, that says that he’s right. But the recent polling doesn’t say that.

HH: Correct. And I actually asked a couple of mainstream media people today whether they thought Cotton would serve as a vice president for some of the potential nominees, and there are reasons, traditional political reasons you can’t have a white male with a white male, blah, blah, blah, that would argue that maybe a Marco Rubio or a Ted Cruz could pick him, or maybe a Jeb Bush could pick him because of age versus youth. But you know, if the tide turns and the war worsens, you really wonder what really will matter, Larry Arnn.

LA: Yeah, we don’t, you know, especially in times of crisis, you know, everybody who could likely fix the situation is an implausible candidate. And you know, I mean in 1940, Winston Churchill, it was extremely implausible that Winston Churchill, whose political career had peaked, what was it, 15 years earlier, who was an old man by now, would be the one to lead the country through that terrible war. And so you just can’t quite tell, right? And Cotton has twice now arrested national attention doing imaginative things that are of a piece with each other, and that nobody else thought of. So you never know what could happen.

HH: There is also, there was a truly incredible moment last night that again talks about implausible things happening. General David Petraeus introduced General Keane by video, and he made his argument a salute to the honor with which General Keane had treated his wife, whom I gather has some particular sort of illness, perhaps MS or something like that, I don’t know what. And it was implausible that David Petraeus would make those remarks, but they were true what he said about General Keane. And I thought to myself we’re living in an unusual time.

LA: Oh, yeah.

HH: And it sort of telegraphs forgiveness of some sins in service of the greater good.

— – – —

HH: I assume Imprimis will be carrying Dr. Arnn’s Bradley Prize remarks, which were very well crafted, and prefaced with a wonderful tribute to his wonderful wife, Penny, and to his four children, and a contingent praise of his new son-in-law. He may work out, I believe you said. That was good, and so I liked that. Good bit of humor. But would you mind telling people, and we’ve got two segments, we’ve got 14 minutes, what it is the argument was you were trying to make to a group that is not without its influence, and they were listening closely.

LA: Okay, well, I guess my speech had three parts. And one part was I’m privileged in a lot of ways, and I talked about my family and my friends, and knowing what friendship is, and the fact that I’ve always been able to work with my friends, which is a way better way to work. And you know, for years and years now, I’ve been the boss everywhere I’ve worked, but the truth is it’s not really how it is. You know, we’re a bunch of friends, and when we don’t know what to do, I decide. That’s how it works.

HH: That’s how it works, yeah.

LA: It’s great. Sometimes, I’ll say, you know, well, we don’t know what to do, so let’s do this. Everybody says okay, let’s do this. So it’s a great way to work, and I’m lucky. But what do my teachers teach me? One of my teachers is a man named Harry Jaffa, who died earlier this year. We talked about him on your show, and you knew him. And he taught that the first question in philosophy is the good. How should we live? What is right for us? And that may also be the last question in philosophy, although it’s presumptuous to say so. And he taught that modern philosophy and this ideology that has seized our government in America, and most Western countries, is conducting a war on the idea of the good. Now the good is whatever we want. And the good changes by evolution in steady changes, and we can get control of that change. And that, he taught, is the crisis of the West. That’s one of my teachers. And the other teacher is a man named Sir Martin Gilbert, who also died recently, and I made the point that Harry Jaffa introduced me to Sir Martin Gilbert, and Martin Gilbert introduced me to Penelope Houghton, my wife, and so I’m in this odd position in life where my two teachers took responsibility for the birth of my children.

HH: It was a very funny…

LA: And both of them told my children that, including when they were young, and they had a lot of trouble figuring out what that might mean. But so I’m wrapped up with these guys, and love them much, and I said that although they’re very different, they’re the same in that both of them taught, one in political thought, and one in history, that things are real, and the challenge of the academic is to find out what real things are and what they mean. And so we were always looking for reality, and trying to prove it. And that’s what we do at Hillsdale College, also focusing on the good. So the first part of my speech was that I was grateful for that. And the second part of my speech was that when you’re young and you adopt principles, you find out later that they own you, you don’t own them, and that they ask things of you, that you have to do things because you have proclaimed these principles and given your heart and your mind to them. And so now that we live in this dangerous time, and I said this is not like 1984 when Lee Greenwood sang I’m proud to be an America at the Republican Convention that nominated Reagan for the second time, this is not like that anymore. This is very different, and very dangerous. And you know, Lee Greenwood then later sang that song very well, and I talked to him a lot, by the way. He came to see me. Well, I said this crisis is like the really bad ones. It’s like the Revolution and like the Civil War and like, I said, 1940 in Europe. And I think it is. I think that there’s a chance that we could lose our country, and I think that that’s because the arguments that we’re having is about the meaning of life in our country, and the central, a meaning of life and the meaning of our country, and about the central ideas that have driven our country. And those are very fundamental, and they affect everything in life now, and very aggressively. And that’s like in those times.

HH: I also was saying to myself in the last row, we are on the, we were in the Kennedy Center, which his built on the shore of the Potomac, and I believe Lincoln would go, and I believe that’s where the battlements were, and he would walk the battlements, and he would look out across Alexandria where the Confederacy was, and that it was, that was a crisis that no one could deny. No one could deny the first two crises. Some people are able to deny this crisis.

LA: Yeah, well, it looks like everything’s okay, and it is, and you know, I don’t know where we are in the crisis. These things about war, you know, that General Keane talked about, they’re going on all over the world, right, and he mentioned the three great problems, which are…

HH: Hang on to that. Hang onto the three great problems. I’ll be right back with Dr. Larry Arnn.

— – — –

HH: When we left, we were talking about those three great challenges, Larry.

LA: So one of them is the rapid expansion of radical Islamic forces across the Middle East, and you know, into Southeast Asia, too, it must be said. And one of them is Russia, which is remaking the map of Eastern Europe, and General Keane said, intending the death of NATO, and on its way to accomplishing that. And the other was China, which is trying to turn the South China Sea and the waters around Japan and Taiwan and Korea into a Chinese lake. And we’re to be denied access to those places, and they openly justify that in the claim that we had the Monroe Doctrine, which said that we were going to be, we weren’t going to have European navies enter the waters around the United States or the countries around the United States, and they’re just saying the same thing. And a friend of mine, by the way, a general, retired General Burgess, was over there not long ago and had a talk, gave a talk, and he was asked lots of questions about why the two circumstances were not parallel. And this man is a great man and had kids at Hillsdale College, and he said well, it depends on whether the two countries are parallel, because it’s one thing to declare that you’re going to keep a whole hemisphere free if you’re going to keep it free. But you and we mean something different by freedom.

HH: You bet.

LA: What you mean is to control of the party. I mean, they write that. Every few years, they write a paper called the meaning of democracy, and they say that what democracy means is the party is the vanguard of the revolution, manages the society toward the realization of the socialist state. That’s what they mean by it, right, which means, by the way, a few have power over many. Whereas what we mean by democracy is that no one may be governed except by his consent. And so there’s a military challenge from those guys now that’s been long in the preparing, and that is now breaking out into explicit acknowledgement. And so that is General Keane’s description, and those things are developing at a pace, and we don’t know what pace they’re developing at, and there’s no large war open right now, certainly no world war. So at home, what’s going on, well, the government in its various kinds of authority, and in its reach through its control of recourses, which by the way, if you count the regulatory power, it’s got to be closer to or over half of the resources in the United States of America.

HH: Yup.

LA: It now is in a place where it’s very difficult for there to be an independent populace to control the government. And that is a reversal of the glory of the American regime that was announced by James Madison when he said that we were the first purely representative form of government in history. And sovereignty, he said, it located outside the government among the people who are governed. And that’s the implementation or into an institution of the principle of the Declaration of Independence that no one may be governed except by his consent. And what we’re seeing is the potential or actual, but probably only potential reversal of those relationships. And so that’s, you know, that’s a very serious thing. That, in the end, is what the Civil War is about, as we’re learning in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Lincoln’s point is if the principles of Douglas and the principles of slavery, either of those two sets of principles are true, then in the end, politics only boils down to self-interest, and whoever is the stronger is going to rule. And you see, that means that we cross a divide in Aristotle’s Politics, which I studied with Harry Jaffa, the two basic kinds of regimes are tyranny and just government. And the difference between them is that tyrannies govern in the interest of the rulers, and just government in the interest of the ruled. And I think that’s the crisis that we’re in.

HH: And I will tell you that, I don’t want people to think that this was a dreary occasion, and I thought about it last night walking back from the Kennedy Center. I walked back to my hotel, because it was a beautiful walk. And I concluded that most people were in a very good mood, despite having heard really very difficult things, and I’ll tell you why. They closed with a heartfelt memorial to Fouad Ajami, and to Martin Gilbert, past Bradley recipients who had passed away. And unlike the Oscar roll that you see at the Oscars every year, they didn’t do it in five seconds. They spent a couple of minutes telling you why these were great men, and you felt their loss. But at the same time, two of the recipients, and by extension a third, Larry’s video had lots of young people in it, the young students of Hillsdale College. And Dr. Ceaser’s video had a lot of young people in it, his students that he was teaching in seminar. And the audience had a lot of young people in it. And Larry’s video had a young Senator, Tom Cotton. And General Keane talked about the greatest honor of his life being leading young men in combat. And it occurs to me, Larry, that the subtext, I don’t think it was ever spoken, is that we continue to turn out, we lose people like Gilbert and Ajami, but we turn out at places like Hillsdale and the military academies and a few other places, a remarkable generation of new leaders.

LA: Yeah, well, and see, you know, I’m loyal to Martin Gilbert, and there are some young people who are loyal to him through me, and Harry Jaffa, too, that’s right, and that’s very good. That’s a good observation. And it wasn’t, and see, you have to remember, you know, where do I think we are right now? It might be like 1931. I read this quote from Churchill last night, right? We may be on our way to some disaster, but it’s not upon us right now. And Churchill had a faith that he announced. He says that no merely material progress can ever satisfy us. We’re going to ache for the spiritual things. And as long as we do that, we’ll never be fit for tyranny. And in the end, tyranny is not what we’re going to get. That’s what he thought. And he fought for that, and he was right.

HH: And that’s what you said last night. It’s why it was a great speech. I was so happy to be there. Dr. Larry Arnn, we’ll continue with the Lincoln-Douglas debates next week.

End of interview.


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