Cal Poly faculty, staff, students and community members packed into the University Theater On Wednesday, Feb. 1 to watch American philosopher Cornel West speak about issues such as social justice and cultural diversity.
The venue was full before the start of the lecture at 6:30 p.m., so the remainder of attendees headed to Ursa Minor in the Bronco Student Center — which had also reached maximum capacity — to view a live feed of the lecture.
So what drew students in? What is it about this dynamic individual that caused so many people to stop and listen?
Perhaps it is the celebrity factor.
West has made multiple television appearances on television programs such as “The Colbert Report,” CNN, C-SPAN and others.
He has also appeared in Hollywood blockbusters such as “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”
However, West’s creative side doesn’t end there. He has performed spoken word as well as collaborated with artists such as Jill Scott, Prince, and Wiz Khalifa.
Maybe it’s West’s experience and knowledge that compelled so many students to hear him speak. In total, he has written 19 books — one of his most noteworthy is “Race Matters.”
West has also taught at multiple universities such as Theological Seminary, Harvard, Yale and the University of Paris. He is currently a professor at Princeton and plans to return to Union Theological Seminary this summer.
Perhaps it’s West’s amiability, humor and overall positive nature that caught students’ attention.
West’s speech was engaging, informative and full of comic relief – which is necessary for these often emotionally heavy subjects. West made each individual in the audience feel empowered and valued. He reasoned that because we turn our backs on the deep rooted issues plaguing our nation that it doesn’t make them disappear. Dr. West’s message inspired all of us to be proactive and make a change.
Though everyone came for different reasons, in the end each of us took something away from Dr. West.
“He motivated me to take education mixed with character more seriously. His message was to never be afraid to express yourself with the knowledge that you have and to form your own opinion on things,” said fifth year liberal studies student, Daisy Hong.
Fifth year electrical engineering student, Alex Cruz was inspired to take his goals to the next level.
“When he said if your dream is to own a house or to get a job, you need to dream bigger. Don’t limit yourself from your potential,” commented Cruz.
West will be speaking at the University of California, Berkeley on Feb. 3.
For more information about Dr. Cornel West, visit his official website at www.cornelwest.com.