Shaking hands with Cornel West, it’s difficult to imagine that this is a man filled with rage. As the prominent “bluesman” put it in his Big Think interview, the key to a more just society lies in a form of widespread and unconditional love of others—a worldview that comes across forcibly within moments of meeting him. Yet, as a schoolboy, the Princeton Professor’s incipient campaign against injustice took some wayward turns, and he became known for bullying bullies, eventually finding himself kicked out of school after punching his teacher and inciting a riot (fortunately, he later took an IQ test and scored so high that he was placed in a better school on the “other side of town”).
Professor West also raised a newfangled critique of Barack Obama, suggesting that the current President has been cozy with Wall Street on account of his long being mesmerized by “braininess.” West went on to discuss the momentous crossroads at which the president stands: he can either prove to be a “spectacle“—a sort of absurd parody of what real change could have been—or he can prove some “backbone” and be a real agent of change. Said differently, he can continue to be an adept and often Machiavellian politician, like Clinton, or he can become a real, Lincolnesque leader.
West also gave Big Think a great reading list, and issued some advice to viewers: stop pining for the soul-deadening ideal of success, and go for greatness. Sound difficult? Well, West also gave some pointers on the everyday things you can do to keep this goal in mind (one quick tip: you can take a cue from John Coltrane and Bob Dylan).