Students, faculty and community members packed Lovett Auditorium Monday night, lining the back walls, as director Spike Lee took the stage for the Presidential Lecture Series.
The lecture series has roots at the University dating back to 1983. Last year, the University was able to bring James Carville and Mary Matalin to speak to the students and residents of Murray about their views on politics and, what was then, the upcoming election.
In past lectures, Murray State has hosted guest speakers such as Ben Stein, Desmond Tutu, Richard Norton Smith, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Benazir Bhutto, Lech Walesa and F.W. DeKlerk.
Many were curious about what Lee’s role in the Presidential Lecture Series would be. The point of the lecture was not about politics, but was a way for the University to offer another perspective on today’s world and current issues.
Prior to the lecture, however, a scheduled press conference was canceled by Lee himself. The University was not overcharged for this aspect of the contract but paid the contracted amount for what it received, said Joshua Jacobs, chief of staff.
“Mr. Lee chose not to participate in the planned press conference prior to the lecture,” Jacobs said. “However, his decision to forgo the press conference certainly didn’t detract from an excellent lecture experience for a capacity crowd. Spike was generous with the scope of his comments and time spent answering questions and meeting with fans after the lecture.”
Soon after the lecture began, the audience realized Lee really wasn’t there to talk about what is going on in the world of politics right now, which many assumed he would, considering the title of the lecture series.
Throughout the lecture, Lee seemed to drive home the point about education and following dreams.
“Parents will kill more dreams than anybody,” Lee said. “They think they can look at their child’s heart and tell what path they want to take.”
He then encouraged all of the students in the crowd to stand up to their parents or whoever else is bringing them down, if that is the case.
“I know it’s hard to stand up to your parents, but you have to,” he said. “You don’t want to be in a dead-end job doing something that you hate.”
Dana Ballow, senior from Paducah, Ky., said Lee’s message really spoke to her.
“I feel that the lecture was relevant to where I am in my life at the moment,” she said. “I liked that he reached out and talked about how you should be doing what you like. And no matter your race or what part of your life you’re in, if you do what you love, you’ll be successful. He was inspiring us to be proactive.”
Lee also took the time during his lecture to praise the liberal arts schools such as Murray State for allowing students a wide array of options.
“The great thing about liberal arts schools is, when it works, you are exposed to various things,” Lee said.
At the start of the lecture Lee, made what might be taken as a slight jab at a fellow film director, which was subtle enough that it could have easily been looked over.
When addressing the subject of education, Lee began listing things that have been preached in schools that need to be taken even more seriously.
“I don’t care what movie comes out,” Lee said. “There is nothing funny about slavery, nothing funny about the holocaust – no matter who makes the movies.”
Film director Quentin Tarantino, who is known for his sometimes comedic take on past serious historical events in his films, was assumed who Lee might have been referencing.
Lee and Tarantino have a long running feud over the usage of the N-word in Tarantino’s films. Lee once told Variety magazine, “I’m not against the word. And some people speak that way. But Quentin is infatuated with that word.”
In recent news, Lee has voiced his opinion on Tarantino’s most recent work, “Django Unchained.”
“All I’m going to say is that it’s disrespectful to my ancestors to see that film. That’s the only thing I’m gonna say,” Lee said to VibeTV. “I can’t disrespect my ancestors. I can’t do it. Now, that’s me. I’m not speaking on behalf of anybody but myself. I can’t do it.”
For the duration of the lecture, the subject of politics really did not come up. The subject was not brought up until the question and answer session, which was held after the lecture.
Again encouraging students to open their minds to critical thinking, he asked the crowd to reflect on the recent presidential election.
Lee said, the last presidential election was filled with old white men telling women if and when they could have an abortion, making decisions for Hispanics about immigration and other important issues facing people in American society.
This year the Presidential Lecture Series was not all about politics but rather a way of encouragement to get ahead in life by simply doing what one loves.
Said Lee: “For the students here tonight, I hope and pray that you find something you love. Because when you find something you love, it’s not work.”
Story by Savannah Sawyer, Assistant Features Editor.