Cornell West

Cornel West was the Martin Luther King Memorial Speaker tonight at UNC. Memorial Hall was completely full and people were turned away — in advance as free tickets were required.

West was all I was lead to believe: smart, witty, theatric, engaging, challenging, occasionally contradictory. Part of West appeal, besides his animated and delightful speaking, is his constant attempt to balance what he calls the Socratic and the Prophetic. That is the logic of the Greeks and the passion and love of Jesus. All in the face of America’s history of racism.

West was happy to school newly announced presidential candidate Obama — and of course his listeners — on the difference between Hope and Optimism.

West had a little fun with folks who say “Obama is so well poised and articulate” as if, says West, that the folks saying that don’t expect black folks to be well poised and articulate. “Those folks are not meeting the right black people,” he says. “I expect all black people to be well poised and articulate.”

He gave a shout out to John Edwards for his work in raising the issues of poverty and class at a national level. But also had a little fun with JE — “Didn’t he used to be a part of this campus for a little bit? Wasn’t he here?”