Kentucky native Wendell Barry delivered a prestigious lecture in the nation's capital last evening. He used the address to rail against corporate greed and to call people back to the land. The government says the Jefferson lecture is the nation's most prestigious honor it bestows on academics. Berry - a farmer, conservationist and writer - now joins the ranks of John Updike and Toni Morrison who have delivered the annual address in the past. In the hour long talk Berry exhorted the more than two thousand people in attendance to resist greed by connecting themselves to the earth as he's attempted to do on his Kentucky farm.
"Because I have never separated myself from my home neighborhood. I cannot identify myself to myself apart from it."
In his call for people to unshackle themselves from corporations Berry recounted how his grandfather was almost ruined as a farmer because prices were driven so low by a monopolistic tobacco titan. Just like he's done in his more than forty written works, Berry urged people to be content instead of always striving for more and newer material possessions and accolades.
"That we live now in an economy that is not sustainable is not the fault only of a few mongers of power and heavy equipment. We all are implicated. We all, in the course of daily economic life, consent to it."
With such a stern rebuke of the U-S culture, it's no wonder that after Berry's remarks the Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Jim Leach put some distance between the lecture and the government.
"As an official of the United States Government I’m obligated to note that the views are those of the speaker and do not reflect that of the United States government or any agency thereof."