What’s the Cost of Freedom? A Dialogue with Cornel West, Robert George and Rick Warren on Disagreement, Civility and Education

Mar. 25, 2015 By Staff

LA MIRADA, CALIF. — Noted public intellectuals Cornel West and Robert George will participate in a public discussion moderated by Rick Warren on the challenge of preserving freedom of thought, speech and education; finding a common vision for American public life; and acquiring the moral and intellectual virtues we need to remain civil despite serious disagreements.

The event, The Cost of Freedom: How Disagreement Makes Us Civil, will happen at Biola University on Thursday, April 30, at 7 p.m. This event is co-sponsored by the Torrey Honors Institute and Biola University's Center for Christian Thought.

“Our cultural climate is often characterized by loud arguments and unproductive media squabbles,” said Biola University President Barry H. Corey. “With this event, we want to model for our community a respectful discussion and a productive debate.”  

West, George and Warren are three of America’s most prominent religious and philosophical leaders. Between them they have written or edited nearly 50 books and sold millions of copies. Each participant is an active voice in American public life, and though they represent very different political, religious and moral perspectives, they share a commitment to the significance of learning and respect, even in the midst of disagreement.

Despite their divergent perspectives, West and George foster a unique friendship: they co-teach classes at Princeton University, remain in regular dialogue, and together they mentor students to exemplify how disagreement, handled with good-will, humility and courage, can improve public discourse about cultural issues.

Cornel West is Professor of Philosophy and Practice at Union Theological Seminary. He has also taught at Yale, Harvard and Princeton. A provocative intellectual, he has appeared in several films (including The Matrix trilogy) and was arrested for peace disturbance during October 2014 demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., over the death of Michael Brown.

Robert George holds the McCormick Chair in Jurisprudence at Princeton University and is founding director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He has served as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights and as a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics; he is also vice chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., which at approximately 30,000 members, is America’s eighth largest church. He is author of The Purpose Driven Life and many other books, founder of Pastors.com, and has been a champion for human rights, alleviation of global poverty and the AIDS epidemic, and more recently an active voice for mental health awareness.

“Freedom is difficult to win and maintain,” said Paul Spears, director of the Torrey Honors Institute.  “George, West and Warren understand the importance of a broad and liberal education for staying united despite disagreements.”

 “I can think of no more compelling model of an accommodating unity than the one on display in the friendship of Robert George and Cornel West,” said Gregg Ten Elshof, director of the Center for Christian Thought.  

To purchase tickets for this event or sign up for the livestream, visit biola.edu/cost-of-freedom.  For more information about the Torrey Honors Institute or the Center for Christian Thought, visit academics.biola.edu/torrey and cct.biola.edu.  For press passes or interviews, contact Jenna Bartlo at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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