Cornel West to deliver Tresolini Lecture Thursday

Dr. Cornel West, professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary, Professor Emeritus at Princeton and one of the country’s most provocative public intellectuals, will deliver the Tresolini Lecture at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in Baker Hall.

The talk, titled “Race and Class in America: From the Voting Rights Act to Black Lives Matter,” is free and open to the public. It is being co-sponsored by the university's Visiting Lectures Committee.

"Cornel West is a powerful speaker who has been a consistent advocate for social justice and real democracy,” said Distinguished University Professor of Political Science Edward Morgan, co-organizer of this year’s talk. “I can think of no better speaker to address our current condition on this subject."

The Rocco J. Tresolini Lectureship in Law was established in 1978, in memory of one of Lehigh’s most distinguished teachers and scholars, Rocco Tresolini (1920-1967), who served as professor and chair of the department of government.

West will be the latest in a long line of luminaries to deliver the Tresolini Lecture, including veteran journalist Bill Moyers, who delivered last year’s lecture on the flickering flame of democracy to a packed house. Previous speakers include former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, former Vietnam War-era strategic analyst Daniel Ellsberg, Presumed Innocent author Scott Turow, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, former Watergate-era White House Counsel John Dean, Bush v. Gore attorney David Boies and Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck.

A champion for justice

A champion for racial justice since childhood, West’s writing, speaking and teaching weave together the traditions of the black Baptist Church, progressive politics and jazz. He burst onto the national scene in 1993 with his bestselling book, Race Matters, a searing analysis of racism in American democracy. Race Matters has become a contemporary classic, selling more than a half a million copies to date. In 1993, he was the recipient of the American Book Award. 

In 2004, he followed up with Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism.
In it, he provides a grim diagnosis for a modern democracy that suffers from free market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism and escalating authoritarianism—all forces that limit efforts to achieve better social and political results on a global scale.

He followed with his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, and more recent releases, Black Prophetic Fire and Radical King, which were met with critical acclaim. He has written more than 20 books and has edited 13.

West is credited with being an influential force in developing the storyline for the popular Matrix movie trilogy, serving as the hit series’ official spokesperson as well as playing a recurring role in the final two films. He also has appeared in more than 25 documentaries and films, including Examined Life, Call & Response, Sidewalk and Stand. West has made three spoken word albums including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert.

His spoken word interludes were featured on Terence Blanchard’s Choices (which won the Grand Prix in France for the best Jazz Album of the year of 2009), The Cornel West Theory’s Second Rome, Raheem DeVaughn’s Grammy-nominated Love & War: MasterPeace, and on Bootsy Collins’ The Funk Capital of the World. His latest spoken word feature reunited him with Terence Blanchard for Breathless—a tribute to the “I Can’t Breathe” movement.

Always outspoken, West is a frequent guest on the Bill Maher Show, CNN, C-Span and Democracy Now.

In addition to Union Theological Seminary and Princeton, West has also taught at Yale, Harvard and the University of Paris. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton.

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