I know how puzzled many people are—-those on the right side of the political spectrum as well as those on the left—-by the deep friendship I have developed with Cornel West, growing out of our teaching partnership at Princeton. I don’t know if Cornel’s left-wing comrades will ever be able to make sense of (or perhaps even forgive him for) his friendship with me; but perhaps this video of Cornel talking with Tavis Smiley about some deeply human matters will help my conservative friends to understand my friendship with him.
Despite our political differences, we share a commitment to engaging our students on these questions with a view to helping them to deepen themselves as persons. We both regard this as foundational and central to our vocations as teachers. Our message is that what ultimately matters is not success in the eyes of the world—-wealth, status, prestige, power, and the like. It is, rather, the purity of one’s soul; it is one’s integrity as a human being who, as a creature fashioned in the very image and likeness of God, is capable (with God’s help) of mastering one’s desires and appetites and living a life of authentic service to God and neighbor.