SOU students and community members greeted Dr. Cornel West with a standing ovation Thursday night, November 14, as he entered the Music Recital Hall. West visited the SOU campus and gave a lecture on race, class, and gender in America.
Throughout his talk, West challenged listeners to stand in their individual uniqueness. “Find your voice,” he said. “Stick to being irreproducible.”
West also discussed how attaining deep knowledge relates to self-knowing, maintaining that we have a moral obligation to be true to ourselves, and stand for justice. He exhorted the audience to search themselves for the anti-Semite, the white supremacist, the homophobe, the sexist, the classist, within themselves.
He also shared thoughts on oppression and neo-liberalism, and educational disparity-
“Rich kids get taught. Poor kids get tested,” he said. West desires a dialogue that is truthful rather than polite. “We want to keep it funky.”
Several students had not heard of West prior to this event. Many attended as part of class assignments. However, student Sam Pennington-Vrsek attended out of personal interest.
“Everything that he said spoke to me how I feel about my family, and about what made you what you are, and giving back to that,” said Pennington-Vrsek.
Another student, Eva Espinosa, said that West’s comments on education were what struck her most powerfully initially.
“What it made me think about the most was my education and what am I really doing here in college and what is my end goal,” said Espinosa.
West spoke about the Greek word ‘paideia,’ defining it as a rigorous search for deep knowledge- not only scholastically, but socially.
“It kind of made me think I maybe should take my time more,” Espinosa said.
Jacob Rubanowitz said West “ . . . conveyed a very powerful message about being able to negotiate one’s self peacefully in an otherwise brutal context.”
While Brad Knipping found West’s political views interesting, he disagreed with some of them. Still, Knipping said, “his views on philosophy were amazing.”
Finally, West encouraged his audience to “try. Fail. Try again, and fail better. But go down swinging.”
“The unexamined life is not worth living,” quoted West, before delving into how introspection and pursuing knowledge can result in a better society and a better America.