Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., speaks to packed Cahn Auditorium

Nathalie Tadena

Read more about Wright’s speech here.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., former pastor of President-elect Barack Obama, encouraged a packed Cahn Auditorium to pursue a global perspective and acknowledge their culture in Northwestern’s first State of the Black Union address Friday night.

“There’s a rupture in generational consciousness and generational understanding,” Wright said. “We need to first teach our students, our children to teach their own stories and stop depending on others to tell their own stories.”

Wright was invited to speak by For Members Only, NU’s black student alliance, after NU rescinded an invitation for Wright to receive an honorary degree at commencement last spring. The retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago was placed in the national spotlight last March over controversial remarks . In the question-and-answer portion of the speech, Wright called NU’s decision “painful.”

More than 900 people, including members of Wright’s church, attended Friday, said Angela Ellington, FMO’s vice chair of external relations. Although NU students had an opportunity to reserve tickets at the Norris Box Office, community members started lining up outside the auditorium as early as 4 p.m. in hopes of acquiring a ticket. Many were unsuccessful, though those still remaining after Wright arrived were admitted to fill the leftover seats.

Among the attendees was University of Illinois-Chicago Prof. William Ayers, the former Weather Underground leader, whose relationship with Obama was also controversial during the campaign.

“Both Rev. Wright and I were brought up as cartoon characters in this campaign because disinformation and dishonest news,” Ayers said. “I did not suffer as much as he did, but we both got out of it with a certain amount of dignity.”

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