On March 29, political activist Cornel West visited McDaniel College’s WMC Alumni Hall for the College’s annual Ira G. Zepp, Jr. Memorial Lecture. Ira Zepp, who passed away in 2009, was a McDaniel Class of 1952 alumnus, as well as one of McDaniel’s most distinguished faculty members. He served as professor emeritus of religious studies, beginning in 1963.
The Ira G. Zepp, Jr. Memorial Lectureship and Day-in-Residence Fund was created in 2010 to commemorate Zepp’s dedication and commitment to McDaniel.
Prior to West’s talk, the McDaniel College Gospel Choir performed two songs: “Good News,” and “We Shall Overcome.” Following the performance, President Roger Casey welcomed the additional guest speakers, Jody Zepp, David Carrasco, and of course the main speaker, Cornel West.
Jody Zepp, Ira Zepp’s daughter, is a 1994 McDaniel alumnus, as well as the 2015 Maryland Teacher of the Year and the 2015 Claes Nobel Educator of the Year. Carrasco is also an alumnus of McDaniel, Class of 1967, and is the Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the study of Latin America at Harvard University.
West is a professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University, as well as a professor emeritus at Princeton University. He is the author of the seminal books “Race Matters” and “Democracy Matters,” as well as the memoir “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.”
Following President Casey’s welcoming, Zepp spoke about her father and his commitment to McDaniel, the community, and the liberal arts.
After Zepp’s remarks, Carrasco spoke about Zepp, as well as his relationship with West, and highlighted pivotal moments in West’s career. In speaking of West’s works, Carrasco humorously noted the thickness of West’s anthology, “The Cornel West Reader.”
Following Zepp and Carrasco, West delivered his lecture. The talk focused on a variety of topics such as oppression, politics, and love.
West discussed the failures of some white men in power and how these failures reflect poorly on white male leaders, with this latter comment segueing into remarks about the United States’ current presidential administration. West stated that Donald Trump is a gangster due to his own statements of having groped and assaulted women.
West’s speech was followed by a standing ovation, and the annual memorial lecture wrapped up with a final performance by the Gospel Choir, concluding the evening by performing the song “Ooh Child.”