Skyline College was honored to host Dr. Cornel West at an exceptional event on the evening of September 11, 2014. Dr. West, a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual, Professor of Philosophy at the Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at Princeton, is known, in the words of Dr. Stanback Stroud, for his “passion to communicate to a vast variety of publics in order to keep alive the legacy…of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and to justice.” He did just that at Skyline College.
Dr. West’s remarks were broad and emphatic – full of his characteristic enthusiasm and passion that spilled over into the audience and offered up inspiration along with contemplation. Speaking on issues of race and class, he referenced the great sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois, stating that the basic questions Du Bois raised about inequality and race were “not fundamentally ideological, not fundamentally religious, they were about integrity, and honesty, and virtue.”
Dr. West also touched on current events like the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Trayvon Martin case. He tied both of these incidents in to the broader, ongoing struggle for equality under the law no matter one’s race, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
Dr. West ended his remarks by focusing on the road ahead, and the constant vigilance required of all of us to stand up to injustice, confront our fears, and never lose hope. Hope, Dr. West concluded, is “the enactment of integrity, honesty, decency, and virtue individually and collectively, embodied in such a way that it becomes contagious enough to other folk that they want to become a part of it from generation to generation.”
Those in attendance were clearly moved by his speech, and during an engaging question and answer session immediately afterwards, they raised questions about gentrification, self-image, and being a young person in today’s world of commoditization and instantaneous communication. Dr. West’s answers were heartfelt and sincere – providing more food for thought as the evening drew to a close.
The faculty, staff and students of Skyline College are immensely grateful to Dr. West for so generously taking the time to visit the campus and speak with us. The dialogue he sparked, and his challenging words, help to bolster Skyline College’s commitment to academic excellence and will linger in our hearts and minds for years to come.
Please view his full speech HERE.
Article by Connor Fitzpatrick | Photos by Raul Guerra