The Northwood Idea – Our Flagpole for Freedom 

Dr. Kent MacDonald

Northwood University President

Dr. Kent MacDonald
November 1, 2020

The Northwood Idea – Our Flagpole for Freedom 

NOTE: A version of this essay was published in the November 2020 edition of When Free To Choose.

Northwood University was built on the foundation of several simple yet powerful ideas. At Northwood, we believe free enterprise, personal responsibility, free markets, limited government, rule of law and, of course, freedom are fundamental tenets to democracy and human progress. Since 1959, these ideas have guided Northwood in our belief that liberty is the greatest determinant of one’s success in life and of prosperity in the communities where we live. Collectively, we refer to this creed as The Northwood Idea. 

These ideas are not new to Northwood. This dedication to freedom is part of our distinctive heritage, and this commitment to The Northwood Idea has led to thousands of graduates’ success, for over six decades. Yet, as we look toward our next sixty years, the concept of freedom seems to be more complex and has become, at times, less certain. I was reminded of the precariousness of freedom when reading an inspiring book entitled “Rediscovering American Values – The Foundations of Our Freedoms for the 21st Century.” Its author, Northwood Alumnus Dick DeVos, reminds us that our freedom is indeed complex and fragile. Specifically, he writes, “freedom conjures up the image of a flag blowing freely in the breeze … yet without a flagpole to anchor it, a flag will blow away. … Our freedom must be anchored to certain values.”   

As I look at the current higher education landscape, I have come to believe The Northwood Idea philosophy is unique, and that it may actually serve us as a modern-day freedom flagpole. That is, while the global winds of change continue to blow, The Northwood Idea provides the steady foundation upon which the timeless ideals of freedom and personal responsibility can proudly fly. It is with respect to these values that we launch When Free to Choose, a publication that I hope will serve as an intellectual beacon for all those who cherish freedom. We will publish When Free to Choose monthly, and it will reflect a wide variety of ideas and insights as they relate to freedom and The Northwood Idea. We are hopeful that this new periodical will provide enlightened perspectives, while also serving as a platform for the open exchange of ideas.  

As members of an academic community, we believe ideas must be expressed freely. At a time when conversations on some campuses appear limited in debate, or reflect a form of destructive discord, Northwood remains committed to freedom of speech, reasoned discourse and providing our community with opportunities to enhance critical thinking by exploring complex, and at times uncomfortable, topics. That is why When Free to Choose will sometimes provide readers with engaging counterpoints to various topics. Having people “think critically” is at the heart of what great universities do.  

In the months ahead, When Free to Choose will provide readers with a variety of topics related to the value of freedom and its ability to create social and economic prosperity. I hope you find our various authors’ perspectives enlightening and interesting, including those from my colleague Northwood Professor Dale Matcheck, who shares his important thoughts related to entrepreneurs, in this inaugural edition of When Free to Choose.  

I encourage you to share When Free to Choose with others and leave a copy with a friend, colleague or stranger. Perhaps you might forward the electronic version of When Free to Choose to your contact list or strike up a conversation with people who may hold different beliefs than yours. In doing so, it may introduce more people to The Northwood Idea, and it might also broaden your own perspectives related to freedom.  

As I continue my second year as President of Northwood, I have come to deeply appreciate what makes this University so special and unique. Our Northwood Family has a common commitment to liberty, free enterprise and small government. In meeting many Northwood alumni and supporters, I have had the privilege to witness this commitment to The Northwood Idea in communities across the country. It makes me proud to serve as President, and it certainly makes me hopeful for the future.  

It has been over two decades since “Rediscovering American Values – The Foundations of Our Freedoms for the 21st Century” was first released. The good news is that I believe alumni and supporters of Northwood University will be pleased to know that the current students, staff and faculty at their alma mater continue to be anchored to the values reflected in The Northwood Idea. As President of this fine University, I am committed to seeing these Northwood values continue to guide our important work, and to the enduring and noble principle that freedom fosters prosperity for all.   

I hope you enjoy this inaugural edition of When Free to Choose 


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