On April 4, 2023, the Dwight Hall Jane and William E. Curran ’49 Distinguished Mentor Program honored the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II as he delivered a public address to 120 in-person and virtual attendees on morality, politics, and change at Yale College and beyond. Presented the day before the launch of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School, of which Bishop Barber is the Founding Director, his lecture called for a new youth-led movement that challenges social injustices.
In her introduction of Bishop Barber, Emily Zhang ’25, Junior Co-Coordinator on Dwight Hall’s Student Executive Committee, noted how the Bishop skillfully combines his roles as a pastor, writer, speaker, and teacher in his work and advocacy. After the lecture, Emily emphasized how impressed she was by Bishop Barber’s skills as an orator, and how his many different roles reflect the hopes and values of Dwight Hall as an organization.
“I can’t emphasize how fitting it is to learn about building a movement from someone like Reverend Barber, who has gone and done exactly all that throughout his life. The things that he preaches are at the very core of what Dwight Hall stands for,” Emily said.
In his speech, Bishop Barber contextualized our current moment within a long legacy of change-makers in American history. From Frederick Douglass to Emmett Till to Fannie Lou Hamer, he explained how the movements of today descend from the movements of before, and how, even after his speech, the works of those men and women will not be complete.
He also emphasized that his work was not partisan, but instead united around common values of love and kindness. Though there have been concerted efforts by those in power to highlight political differences and sow division, Bishop Barber argues that we must find “the moral ground that exists beneath our ideological differences.” Further, he asserted that this mission is the mission of the next generation—of Yale College students, and other young people in America. “Hearing him speak directly to young people was a huge highlight,” Emily explained.
Peter Crumlish ’09 M.A.R., Executive Director and General Secretary of Dwight Hall, was also impressed by Barber’s speech. “The Reverend Barber’s call to action was inspiring and, while he was withering in his critique of our society in terms of its failure to care for the marginalized and most vulnerable, he also offered hope that collectively we can do something to bring about positive change,” Peter said. “He beautifully filled the role of the Jane & William E. Curran ’49 Distinguished Mentor, inspiring the students present to commit themselves to using their allotted time on this planet to make the world a better place.”
You can view Bishop Barber’s April 4th address here.