On Feb. 1, Reverend Dr. William Barber II was presented with an honorary doctorate degree of Humane Letters by Occidental College in its very own Throne Hall. Following his presentation, Rev. Dr. Barber gave his talk on “Revival, Resilience, Redemption After Rejection: Analyzing the 2016 Election and How to Move Forward.” The captivating talk focused on explaining voting patterns of minorities throughout history, how it is that presidents win elections, and how people create a change and why it is important to help make these changes happen.
Barber draws from his work as the President of the North Carolina NAACP and a speaker at the 2016 National Democratic Convention in order to strengthen his impassioned and sanguine vision of America’s democracy today and in the future. He discusses how the Southern Strategy to win the presidential election has been used for numerous presidential campaigns in the past, including our most recent election.
Rather than deepen the division in our communities, in our states, or in our nation, Barber explains how people must use what they have been rejected for to band together to work towards repairing our nation. He calls upon members of the Black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ community to work together to empower each other to create the America that was envisioned by the creators of the U.S. Constitution. He clarifies his point by explaining that the rejection countless citizens have faced has only made them stronger and more able to fight for their country against politics that threaten their country.
When asked by an Occidental student what he thought of student activism now and where he would like to see it go, Barber explained how it is that student activism plays an “extraordinarily important” part in our country’s social and civil movements. Barber went on to respond by urging our youth to collaborate with older generations in order to better our nation.
In his response, Barber takes his audience back to a time where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a highly sought after leader. He explains how Dr. King’s leadership was not a “helicopter” leadership. He tells his audience how Dr. King did not simply lead people in the direction that he had shown to be the direction of equality. He had taught people how to get there, how to achieve the goals of their community through collaboration, and peaceful protests.
In his closing remarks, Barber calls people to stand up now, but not to rush. He urges his audience to strategize and be prepared to “run a marathon” because we’re only “12 days in” – referring to the time Trump has been in office.
In the words of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, “the race is not given to the swiftest nor to the strongest but they who endure to the end, we must endure in order to change the course of history.”