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Cornel West attracts hundreds to CSULB ballrooms

Cornel+West+is+known+for+blending+teachings+on+faith%2C+politics%2C+race+and+class+with+a+fiery+speaking+style.
Cornel West is known for blending teachings on faith, politics, race and class with a fiery speaking style.

Cornel West is known for blending teachings on faith, politics, race and class with a fiery speaking style.

Patrick Moreno | Daily 49er

Patrick Moreno | Daily 49er

Cornel West is known for blending teachings on faith, politics, race and class with a fiery speaking style.

Patrick Moreno, Contributing Writer

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More than 500 people gathered in the ballrooms of the University Student Union today to hear political activist and author Cornel West speak about the state of democracy in the U.S.

Associated Students Inc. and program council staff shuffled extra chairs to the rear of the ballroom to accommodate the growing audience. Still, the line of Cal State Long Beach students waiting to see West extended as far as the construction on the Hall of Science, causing many to be turned away at the door.

After taking the stage, West joked about President F. King Alexander’s name, saying it wasn’t very nice of Alexander’s parents to name their son “King,” when they live in a democracy.

West, a Princeton University professor, is known for blending teachings on faith, politics, race and class with a fiery speaking style. He has appeared on shows like “The Colbert Report” and “Real Time With Bill Maher,” in addition to two “Matrix” movies.

During his speech, West praised the protesters in the Egyptian capitol of Cairo. He said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would’ve likely described the Egyptians’ unrest as a simple “straightening of their backs.”

He then walked behind the podium, hunched over and clutched his lower back. Then he stood tall and said that when you straighten out your back and stand up tall, “It makes it so folk can’t ride on it anymore.”

West acknowledged the controversial stances he’s taken and thanked the CSULB student body for having the courage to invite “a brotha’ like him” to speak on campus. Courage, West said, is one of the fundamental values that is lacking in our youth today, and precedes the ability to develop other fundamental values of truth, love and trust.

West spoke with a fervor, gesturing passionately and often using the vocal dynamics of the microphone — all characteristics that are expected of his live act.

He spoke of love, and the lack of all types of love in the hearts of youth. Instead, he said young people obsess over materially “insatiable” urban music and the “superficial cultural sideshow” of shows like “Jersey Shore.”

He spoke of hatred, disavowing it as an act of cowardice and, furthermore, asserting that “hatred is a coward’s revenge for those that once intimidated him.”

He spoke of President Barack Obama, and his recent State of the Union Address.

“I want to not only love and respect the man, I want to correct him,” West said.

In an interview with the Daily 49er before his speech, West explained why his discourse in democracy has been brought to the forefront of his philosophy as of late.

“We want to refocus our attention on the poor and the working people because democracy is always about connecting the public to the plight of the less fortunate,” he said.

West commanded that focus as the mostly captivated audience hung on his every word.

CSULB alumna Chantel Vaultz lingered in the reception area after the speech, waiting for her turn to greet West, who ignored his insistent security adviser’s many attempts to usher him out of the throng of fans for nearly 15 minutes.

“He was profound and engaging,” Vaultz said. “His words took us on a journey, and he tied it all together.”

Film and sociology major Manny Guisa said that West’s eloquent presentation of his democratic ideals, “Conveyed a much needed message to the politically maturing students of this school.”

 


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