The Urgency of Now

Dr. Cornel West headlined a stellar roster of presenters at Thacher’s second-annual Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Summit.
“There is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is the thief of time … There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance and our neglect.” MLK, Jr. 1967 Beyond Vietnam Speech. 

Thacher’s Milligan Center for the Performing Arts was filled to capacity for the keynote speech at the second-annual Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Summit. This year’s program, entitled Tomorrow is Today–The Urgency of Now, was headlined by Dr. Cornel West, American philosopher, political activist, social critic, author, and public intellectual. 

In his dialogue with journalist, activist, and political analyst Bakari Kitwana, West described Martin Luther King Jr. as a “figure who exemplified a moral and spiritual greatness” through “integrity, honesty, decency, and courage.” West’s remarks included a shout out to his friend and fellow Sacramento-native Phil Angelides CdeP 1970, whom he described as “one of the finest persons I’ve known in my life.”

West also had some kind words for Thacher, which he described as “an institutional gem way off in the mountains here in California. Way up in the mountains. Oh, you’ve got a lot of good stuff going on!”

Among that “good stuff” were two workshop sessions following the keynote. Participants selected from 19 workshops based on their own interests, including Dr. King, Hip Hop, Politics, and Pop Culture; Write for Change; The Urgency of Ally; Daring Leadership, and others. A large group of attendees opted to remain in the Milligan Center for a Q&A session with West and Kitwana as they weighed in on a range of topics.

Like its predecessor, the second-annual conference was designed to include attendees from many nearby schools and organizations. Attendance this year was close to 400 as Thacher welcomed students and teachers from Ojai schools: Nordhoff, Ojai Valley School, Oak Grove, and Villanova Preparatory, as well as four L.A. area schools: Chapman, Fairfax, Loyola, and Viewpoint. Adult members of the Independent School Alliance were also in attendance. 

Why open the event to so many outside attendees? To build what West, in the tradition of King, calls the “beloved community.” ”When you come here, I don’t care what your religion, what your gender, but you are going to be treated with decency and dignity, and you are going to be pushed toward maturation to think for yourself, so you are going to be deeply unsettled, you're going to be deeply unnerved. … and if you don’t have a moment of intellectual vertigo, you wasted your money.”

For details about the speakers and workshops, download the event program.

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