On Monday, Sept. 10, Interim Chancellor Susan R. Wente welcomed Terry Crews to Langford Auditorium Stage as the first speaker in the 2019 Chancellor’s Lecture Series. Interim Chancellor Wente states that the purpose of these lectures is to expand individual perspectives and encourage diversity of thought. Accordingly, this year’s theme of the lecture series is centered around “culture of respect, culture of care.” Under this culture of care, Interim Chancellor Wente challenged the audience to foster inclusion, be open to other viewpoints, and respect others.
The first speaker in the lecture series has proven to exemplify these ideals throughout his career. Noted as a “Silence Breaker” in the #MeToo Movement; actor, athlete, and activist, Terry Crews has shared his story to demonstrate compassion and create a culture of care. His experience with sexual assault and toxic masculinity emphasizes the improtance of speaking up and advocating for others.
Crews started his lecture with a simple acknowledgement: “I do not have answers." Instead, the goal of the evening was to dig for more questions to figure what we, the audience, needed to do next. Crews stated that, “if you ask the right questions, you can find our way.” In order to achieve this goal, Crews planned to share his story with the hope of helping at least one person in the audience.
The lecture featured stories from Crews’ childhood and adolescence in Flint, MI. He discussed his father’s struggles with alcoholism and the ensuing violence against his mother by the hands of his father. These stories introduced the idea of toxic masculinity and a contrived definition of manhood during this time in his life. Through asking himself and others around him to define manhood, Crews remarked that he began to construct a false sense of masculinity that followed him into adulthood. Crew explained how this myth manifested itself in his porn addiction. He testified that pornography does not teach consent. Instead, it instructs this generation of viewers that the boundaries of consent are blurry and instills false images of women as sexual objects. Furthermore, he addresses how this addiction created distance between him and his wife and eventually destroyed his marriage.
However, Crew’s journey towards redemption was the most powerful segment of the lecture. He talked about how he overcame imposter syndrome during the beginning of his career, challenged the stigmatization of mental health within the Black community, and rebuilt his marriage through embracing vulnerability. Crews found that fixing his life meant being honest with himself and eradicating this fictitious sense of masculinity. Finally, Crews discussed his experience with sexual assault and how he emerged in the #MeToo Movement. Once he decided that, “Hollywood was over,” Crews began to own his story and use it for good. Although he argued that he did not have any answers to provide the audience that night, he nonetheless answered the question of his youth. For him, being a man meant advocating for others who cannot do so for themselves. In this way, Crews stepped into the influential role of breaking the silence within Hollywood surrounding sexual harassment and assault.
Overall, I found Terry Crews’ lecture to be powerful and uplifting. His honesty, authenticity, and commitment to sharing his story connected with the audience in a compelling way. His words of wisdom and acts of courage exemplify what it means to promote a “culture of respect, culture of care”.
The next speaker in the lecture series will be George Takei on Oct. 2 at 6:30pm in Langford Auditorium.