Cornel West's youth message
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Cornel West posing with students
Cornel West, a leading social critic, author and Princeton academic presented to a packed house Jan. 28 in Ritsche Auditorium.
West called upon today’s youth to look beyond themselves and their immediate surroundings to see the larger picture to become better leaders.
This is not about comfort and convenience and contentment – this is about learning to think critically and bearing witness and leaving the world a little better than you found it.
“One of the problems these days is that young folk are so obsessed with success that they end up well adjusted to injustice,” said West, as he advised students to think critically against the grain.
West is the Class of 1943 University Professor in the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard and obtained his master’s and doctorate in Philosophy at Princeton. His past teaching experience is from Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris.
We are fallen, we are finite, we are fallible�all of us have inadequacies and insecurities and fears. But the question is do you have the courage to examine yourself in such a way that you situate yourself in a story bigger than you?
West cited a major problem with society and today’s youth when it came being human, where critical reflection was put aside for stimulation and titillation.
He defined the concept of success in today’s world as being solely immaterial, where titles, positions and wealth trumped what it really meant to be great, and not just successful.
When you talk about leadership you don’t just want successful leadership, you want great leadership. Never confuse success with greatness.
West urged youth to “cut against the grain” because leadership wasn’t about popularity and to muster the courage to examine their lives for prejudices, presupposition and prejudgments.
He spoke about youth coming to him saying they wanted to be leaders, and in response him asking if they wanted to tell the truth or just be on television, because although being on television was fine, they should get a reality show if that’s what they were after.
In the end it’s about what kind of person you choose to be, what organization you choose to work with, what kind of sacrifice are you willing to make, and probably most importantly, what is the quality of your service to the least of these�
West received standing ovations before and after his speech. In the question and answer session that followed, his message to the Occupy St. Cloud movement was simple: “Never get discouraged about numbers. It's about quality not quantity.”
In addition to urging young people to be great leaders and think critically, West also touched on the topics of racism, poverty and the unfairness of the legal system for poor people.
St. Cloud State University