Cornel West , one of America’s most provocative intellectuals, kicked off West Virginia University’s annual Festival of Ideas Friday (Feb. 13) in the Mountainlair ballrooms.

During his high-intensity presentation, West touched on education, philosophy, politics and the impact of hip-hop on culture and law. He urged the hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members in attendance to examine their views on life and broaden their horizons. (To hear excerpts from his presentation, click on the arrow above.)

West has garnered national acclaim for his writing, speaking and teachingwhich weave together the traditions of the black Baptist church, progressive politics and jazz.

His many books include the best-sellersRace Matters,a searing analysis of racism in America, andDemocracy Matters,a look at the arrested development of democracy both in the U.S. and the Middle East. His latest book,Hope on a Tightrope,presents a collection of views on the current state of American politics and culture.

West has also released three albums, and he was an influential force in developing the story line for the popularMatrixmovie trilogy. He served as the trilogys official spokesman and played a recurring role in the final two films. He earned two bachelors degrees in three years from Harvard University and his doctorate from Princeton University. West is currently a professor at Princeton.

The next Festival of Ideas lecture will feature Dr. Leroy Hood , who helped develop the technological foundation for modern molecular biology. He will present”Systems Biology and Medicine”at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, in Ming Hsieh Hall, Room G21 . His talk is free and open to the public.

“We are privileged to have a scientist of Dr. Hood’s stature and accomplishments participate in the Festival of Ideas,”said Joginder Nath, a WVU genetics professor.”His work has been ground-breaking and in keeping with the Darwinian themes surrounding this year’s Festivalforward-thinking. His ideas, including a systems approach to biology and medicine, and inventions will spark scientific discovery, thought and discussion for years to come.”

Hoods lecture is supported in part by the Nath Lecture, a WVU Honors College program, which is funded through an endowment by Nath and his wife, Charlotte, a WVU professor in family medicine.