Democracy on his mind

Widely known as one of America’s most eloquent philosophers and authors, Cornel West delivers his lecture, “Democracy Matters,” tonight at 7 in the Special Events Center.

West, a professor of religion at Princeton University, is often regarded as a gifted and provocative public intellectual. His writing, teaching and lectures explore the African American traditions of the baptist church, transcendentalism, socialism and pragmatism. He gained national recognition for his best-selling work Race Matters, which explores the ongoing struggle for racial equality in America and the progression of democracy.

Tonight’s lecture will be directly related to the theme of one of his best-selling works Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, which discusses the development of democracy in America and in the Middle East.

In his book, West argues that in order for America to become a more efficient steward of democratization worldwide, light must be brought to the long history of imperialistic corruption that has plagued the United States. The book also goes in depth about the United States’ failure to foster peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the crisis of Islamist anti- Americanism which West asserts stems from hypocrisies in the United States’ foreign policies.

Although socialism and pragmatism are West’s specialties, he also holds philosophies that cross social cultures.

“The appeal of Cornel West is that he is not only an intellectual, he has a hold on current pop culture. He’s very accessible as a speaker,” said Rodrick Colbert, a member of the Black Emphasis Month Committee, who explained that students should be interested in West’s lecture.

In the hip-hop world, where not many professors or philosophers dare venture, West is an exception.

He is an avid supporter of positive hip-hop music. “West believes music is a way of communicating… hip-hop is not to be disregarded,” said Sam Wright, the faculty adviser of the Black Emphasis Month Committee.

He has been the guest speaker at hip-hop summits and conventions in the recent years. West has released his own hip-hop albums: Sketches of My Culture and Street Knowledge.

Although his admirers have declared him an intellectual prophet because of the 16 scholarly books he’s published, because Harvard elevated him to the highest scholarly distinction, his dissenters criticize his eccentricity and involvement in pop culture.

Just as West is involved in pop culture, he has been involved in social politics.

As a long time member of the Democratic Socialists of America, West serves as an honorary chairman. He has worked with many political and social organizations, such as co-chairing the National Parenting Organization’s Task Force on Parent Empowerment. West was a panelist in President Clinton’s National Conversation on Race and was a member of Al Sharpton’s presidential exploratory committee.

West has received several awards for his writing and been given more than 20 honorary degrees. He earned his bachelor’s from Harvard University and his master’s and doctorate from Princeton University.

The lecture, sponsored by the University Lecture Series and the Black Emphasis Month Committee, is free and open to the public.