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Dr. Cornel  West

Dr. Cornel West

Provocative Public Intellectual & Groundbreaking Author

Dr. Cornel West

Provocative Public Intellectual & Groundbreaking Author


Dr. Cornel West is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary. Dr. West teaches on the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as well as courses in Philosophy of Religion, African American Critical Thought, and a wide range of subjects -- including but by no means limited to, the classics, philosophy, politics, cultural theory, literature, and music.

Dr. West is the former Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. Cornel West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.

He has written 20 books and has edited 13. He is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. His most recent book, Black Prophetic Fire, offers an unflinching look at nineteenth and twentieth-century African American leaders and their visionary legacies.

Dr. West is a frequent guest on the Bill Maher Show, CNN, C-Span and Democracy Now. He has a passion to communicate to a vast variety of publics in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. – a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.

Speaker Videos

The Need for Integrity in Modern America

A Lesson From the Blues

Black Prophetic Fire

Education, The Cultivation of Self

The Profound Desire for Justice

Three Prophetic Figures

Person of Integrity

No Such Thing as Being Self-Made

Speech Topics

The Profound Desire For Justice

In a time when people are hungry for deeper democracy and equality, justice becomes a crucial factor in attaining these ideals, according to Dr. Cornel West. What is required of citizens in the pursuit of attaining justice is connecting, linking and coalescing our collective struggles, whether economic, racial, sexual, global or otherwise.

But how do we bring people together in the name of justice when inequality still prevails and so many remain isolated or locked inside their own personal struggles? In this presentation rooted in current events as well as historical precedents, Dr. West examines ways we can unite and effectuate justice in order to live together harmoniously for the greater good, united in a higher cause on grounds that are moral as well as spiritual.

Critical Thinking and the Cultivation of Your True Self

Education, according to Dr. Cornel West, is central to the future of the nation and species. In this presentation on cultivating critical thinking, which is integral to the maturation of the soul, Dr. West distinguishes between education – the formation of attention so you can focus on the things that matter to you most – and mere schooling, or gaining access to skills without the transformation that comes with an effective education.

He offers profound insight into refining one's true self by possessing the simple courage to love, to stay connected to the humanity of others regardless of their color, creed, culture or civilization, and to stay immersed in the arts, whether music, painting, dancing or drawing, because imagination and empathy play a key role in creating deeper, fuller selves. In Dr. West's eyes, education gives us the courage to hope and lends a sense of possibility no matter how dark things become – so that we can focus on what really matters in life, whether it's joy, love, fidelity or service to others

Love Warriors, Moral Titans and Critical Thinkers: Three Prophetic Figures You Need To Know

In this presentation Dr. Cornel West examines three crucial figures from recent history that he believes the younger generation needs to know more about. Starting with Martin Luther King, Jr., and delving well beyond "I have a dream," West argues that King wasn't simply fighting racism, but also poverty, militarism and materialism, or the emptiness of the soul.

Next he examines the Prophetic Judaism of King's friend and mentor, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel, who advocated for anyone who was dehumanized or devalued, including the working poor. Finally, he reexamines the life and work of Dorothy Day, the journalist and activist who went on to found the Catholic Worker's Movement. In many ways a precursor to Pope Francis, Day embodied similar virtues, including direct aid to the poor and homeless. West demonstrates how all three of these towering figures – described as "love warriors, moral titans and critical thinkers" – are as vital to society today as they were during previous decades.

Living Through Our Leaders: The Search For Black Prophetic Fire

Examining the lives of some of his personal heroes across a variety of disciplines and pursuits – bearers of what he calls Black Prophetic Fire, towering figures who changed the world – Dr. Cornel West considers the life and work of such luminaries as Ida B. Wells, A. Philip Randolph, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Coltrane, Max Roach, Gil Scott-Heron, Curtis Mayfield and others.

He locates a common denominator in these prophets including a hypersensitivity to the weak and vulnerable that produces a righteous indignation in the face of a callous status quo, making these names as vital to the current age as they were in their own time. By revisiting these names and the fire they brought to their age, which he argues is alive and well in the current generation, Dr. West encourages audiences to stoke the fire as they did – by bearing witness, taking risks, cutting against the grain and telling the truth, not in a spirit of self-righteousness, but as a calling to make the world a better place in generations to come.