Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cornel West, Brother

The NYTimes Magazine was interviewing Cornel West, the prominent professor, writer, thinker, you name it.

A few thought provoking points:

NYT: But you have also acknowledged that this is more than just political — you’ve said that after campaigning for him at 65 events, you were miffed that he didn’t return your phone calls or say thank you. 
CW: I think he had to keep me at a distance. There’s no doubt that he didn’t want to be identified with a black leftist. But we’re talking about one phone call, man. That’s all. One private phone call. 
NYT: He was running a successful candidacy for president. He might have been busy. 
CW: So many of the pundits assume that it’s just egoism: “Who does Cornel West think he is? The president is busy.” But there’s such a thing as decency in human relations. 

Always remember to show hakaras hatov.  

NYT: How can Obama be the president you want him to be when he’s facing this Republican Congress? 
CW: I’ll put it this way, brother: You’ve got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer. A thermostat shapes the climate of opinion; a thermometer just reflects it. If you’re just going to reflect it and run by the polls, then you’re not going to be a transformative president. Lincoln was a thermostat. Johnson and F.D.R., too.  

That analogy really got me thinking. If one wants to bring change, as we learn from the Chofetz Chaim, one starts by changing themselves, not the world around them. One person can bring a difference by not reflecting the current world order.  By the same token, one cannot demand change if they go along with everyone else.

And he also has a sense of humor. 

NYT: What’s with the black suit, white shirt, black tie outfit you always wear? Do you have anything else in your closet? 
CW: I’ve got four black suits that I circulate, and they are my cemetery clothes — my uniform that keeps me ready for battle. 

NYT: Your cemetery clothes? 
It’s ready to die, brother. If I drop dead, I am coffin-ready. I got my tie, my white shirt, everything. Just fix my Afro nice in the coffin.

Be prepared, but don't fear death. I like it.  

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