Cornell West

Dr. Cornel West joins the President’s Forum at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

New York Times best-selling author Cornel West forever changed America’s dialogue on race and justice with his contemporary classic, Race Matters. Whether lecturing to audiences throughout the world or appearing on countless national media outlets at home and abroad, West’s unique gifts have made him one of the world’s most recognized public intellectuals. Although his best-selling books and commentaries have sparked debates for decades on race, religion, culture, philosophy, and politics, the totality of his life has remained a mystery—until now.

How did a man dubbed by some as “the world’s smartest Negro” go from childhood bully to class president and honor student in Sacramento, California to the halls of Harvard? These questions and many more are answered in Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, Cornel West’s long awaited life story, written with David Ritz. “Until now,” confirms West, “I’ve never taken the time to focus on the inner dynamics of the dark precincts of my own soul.”

West graduated with honors from John F. Kennedy High School and followed his dream to the campus of Harvard University where he thrived as one of the bright young intellectuals. It was there that he discovered his calling—to teach—eventually becoming one of the nation’s most popular college professors. West graduated from Harvard magna cum laude in three years, and entered a doctoral program in philosophy at Princeton University.

In Brother West, Dr. West discusses his life’s great passions—the life of the mind and the prophetic Christian tradition that has shaped his deepest personal values of unconditional love and a courageous commitment to service. He shares lessons learned in the academy through his professorships at Union Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, Princeton, and Harvard, detailing the shocking and unexpected clash with Harvard’s controversial president Lawrence Summers and his decision to accept an invitation to return to Princeton in the aftermath.

Moreover, West speaks candidly about his deep love and appreciation of family, the challenges of being a black man in America with its fierce sting of racial profiling, his complicated relationships with the women in his life, and the joy his children have brought him. He expounds upon the message contained in his signature dress and style, why a life without books and music would be an irreversible wound to his soul, the strength he continues to draw from his beloved mother, and why justice is what love looks like in public.

West shares his perspective on the age of President Barack Obama, for whom he campaigned. And he challenges the 44th president to lead the nation. “As he aspires to be a black Lincoln, I intend to be a blacker Frederick Douglass,” adding, “I hope that the age of Obama is the age of empowering everyday people rather than a recycling of neo-liberal mediocrity.”


Dr. Cornel West

Read the Transcript

October 5, 2009
Smith Opera House
Geneva, N.Y. 14456
Program begins at 7:30 p.m.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public


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