Hillsdale Students Traveled 600+ Miles to See Wendell Berry

Written by Katie Beemer

As students, we often read great books in our classes, such as Plato’s The Republic, Cicero’s On Duties, Dante’s Inferno, and class discussion ensues. In these discussions, I sometimes wish we could just ask the author what he meant by a certain assertion or statement.

It’s a rare opportunity indeed to be able to meet an author we have studied extensively. When this opportunity suddenly arose, the Symposium Club and the Hillsdale College Honors Program seized it with both hands, making a spur-of-the-moment trip to hear Wendell Berry speak at the Front Porch Republic Conference in Louisville, KY.

For us, the opportunity to hear Wendell Berry speak was especially exciting. Every year the students in Honors Program go on a retreat right before school starts where we discuss an author that we have read over the summer. This year, we focused on Wendell Berry, an extensive novelist and essayist who focuses on the topic of localism.  Berry’s writing really resonated with us this year, and when we heard that Berry would be speaking in Louisville, we simply could not pass up this opportunity!

Plans came together fairly quickly, and last Friday evening, 33 of us left for Louisville in college vans. We traveled over twelve hours just to go to a conference for a few hours!

When we finally got to the conference, I think many of us were surprised that we constituted a large majority of the people there. We were the Hillsdale contingency, probably making up a large portion of the audience. The speakers were fascinating, the question answer time was interesting, and Wendell Berry was fantastic.

However, in the end, that was not what mattered the most. It was the community that only a small school like Hillsdale has, like the smaller community that the Honors Program has. It was stopping for ice cream in the middle of Ohio and car discussions ranging from theology to pop music to Platonic theory. It was the smiles on all of our faces when they had free books about the Founding Fathers. It was how excited my best friend was to hold the door open for Wendell Berry. It was the Hillsdale difference, the unique mixture of laughter and intelligence, all combining in a whirlwind trip.


Katie Beemer is a freshman majoring in Politics. She is a member of the Hillsdale College Honors Program, and she is on the executive team of A Few Good Men. Katie also writes for The Collegian.