By Camilla ArellanoSpecial to the Chronicle
Political and social activist, Dr. Cornel West, made his Hofstra debut at the Adams Playhouse on Wednesday evening to create awareness for the poverty problem in the United States.
The two hour lecture, “Making Abolishing Poverty a Priority in the Presidential Election,” was part of the International Scene Lecture Series as a “Citizen’s Guide to U.S. Foreign and Economics Policies” in preparation for the second Presidential Debate at Hofstra this October.
His popular persona could not have hurt the successful turnout. All 1,100 seats of the Playhouse were reserved by the day of West’s event. Along with students, groups like the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County, Inc. and students from Huntington High School were present at the lecture.
However, most of Hofstra students randomly questioned were unfamiliar with West or his work. While all students felt that poverty was a pressing social problem, six out of ten felt that poverty was not a national priority to them as college students.
Sophomore Krishna Dave admitted that her lack of activism came from knowing little about the subject and expressed interest in learning more about it.
Several other students agreed that while poverty is important, it shouldn’t be the country’s major focus at the moment.
“There are other issues in the country that need to be prioritized,” said Matthew Canavan, a sophomore.
When asked about his reaction to these numbers, West smiled. “Well, they have a right to be wrong,” he said. “The wonderful thing about Hofstra University is that education broadens your horizon.”
West has referred to the issue of poverty as a “matter of national security,” believing that students would be inclined to agree and be more invested if they had personal connections with someone going through poverty.
Professor Cynthia Bogard, chair of the sociology department has taught a class on poverty at the University since 1994. She noted West’s popularity and ability to persuade. “He’s a famous guy who gets a lot of press,” she said. “People will listen to him.”
West wholeheartedly shared during his talk as he spoke about how potent education is in the war against poverty. He remained optimistic about the youth’s involvement in combating poverty stating that his Poverty Tour 2.0 has gotten several youth groups at each state to get involved.
After he finished speaking, West stayed in the Playhouse to watch the first debate with the rest of the Hofstra community.