By Cecily Arambula
Nearly 1,000 people flooded different areas of Cal Poly Pomona
to hear philosopher, author and civil rights activist Cornel West
speak on what Professor Renford Reese called a “historic
“These are the types of events that make great universities
great,” said Reese after West’s speech.
“He shared so much knowledge that I was dizzy at the end,” said
Reese. “He took us all the way around the world, brought us back
here to the United States, talked about our domestic problems, and
he talked about all of these issues from a deep, philosophical
Five hundred and sixteen attendees filled up the University
Theatre, about 350 sat and stood in the BSC for a live stream and
about another 100 listened outside to West’s thoughts on social
justice, civil rights and cultural diversity.
Students, faculty, staff and other community members attended
including University President Michael Ortiz, Associate Vice
President for University Relations Ron Fremont, Vice President for
Student Affairs Douglas Freer and Chief of Police Michael
Also in attendance was talk show host and author Tavis Smiley,
whom West has known for 25 years and hosts a radio show with.
West was welcomed to the University Theatre stage by Reese,
Political Science Department Chair David Speak and professor
“I just want to thank each and every one of you for coming out
tonight. As you can see, I am in no rush,” said West, slowly and
And so the pace of the night was set, as West spoke for over an
hour about how humanity has everything to do with social justice,
civil rights and cultural diversity, how to overcome prejudices in
every day life, and why success should not be the goal in life.
“If your dream is to be successful, you need to expand your
dream,” said West.
West drew a variety of emotions from the audience. Some nodded
in approval of his points and some applauded in approval.
The audience sat in silence, listening to West’s speech, with
the occasional outburst of laughter when West made a joke.
The audience rose to their feet when West brought his speech to
West and Reese moved to the right side of the stage where they
sat for West to answer questions.
Audience members asked questions ranging from occupy movements
to West’s opinions on President Barack Obama.
Ali Elachkar, president of the Political Science Club, presented
West with a CPP sweatshirt to end the night.
Recent CPP graduate and former Associated Students, Inc.
Secretary of External Affairs Shelley Bruce was also in attendance,
and said she felt inspired and energized after West’s speech.
“I just hope [students] feel more empowered,” said Bruce. “I
hope they feel more awake and more conscious about a new angle of
looking at something.”
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