Simpson College presented the first annual Carver Medal to Dr. Reverend Jeremiah Wright at the Carver Lecture, which was held on Thursday, Jan. 17, in Smith Chapel.
The Carver Lecture has been an annual event since 1974 and this year’s lecture was the 34th lecture in the series.
Walter Lain, assistant dean for multicultural and international affairs, said what makes this year new is that Simpson College is presenting an actual medal, the Carver Medal, to give greater recognition to the achievements and legacy of George Washington Carver.
“Many people know Carver for his uses for the peanut but he was also important for other things,” Lain said. “He was big on agricultural extension education, believed in improvements for racial relations, mentoring children, poetry, painting, and we know that he was deeply spiritual so therefore he was a religious person. He was a great man.”
Lain said by giving out the medal, they wanted to give greater recognition to Carver.
“He was a very humble person, he was a great humanitarian, good natured, and many of these things that he accomplished, he didn’t seek to utilize for personal gain, he gave them away” Lain said. “He was free with his knowledge and wanting to help average, everyday people.”
The first annual Carver Medal was presented to Wright, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Wright has been the pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ since 1972 and he has seen the church grow from 87 members to over 8,000 today.
“I’m puzzled as I look at the list of persons who have done the Carver Lecture how my name is even in the same paragraph with some those great names who have been here,” Wright said. “That is a humbling experience and I’m honored to be considered of having something worthwhile to say in the lectures in the same category as some of the names that I’ve seen on the previous list of speakers for the Carver Lectures.”
Wright said he was very honored and even overwhelmed to be chosen as the first recipient of the medal and to honor Carver.
“A lot of people don’t know the full depth of the story of George Washington Carver,” Wright said. “His name gets reduced to the peanut-man…but to look at this person who is multi-talented in different disciplines, in his work in botany and the amazing patents and discoveries that he made, things that we take for granted, with his desire constantly to serve others and to serve the least of these.”
Wright’s topic at the Carver Lecture was entitled “Jesus and Politics,” and was especially relevant because of the political season stemming from the caucuses.
“One of the major issues affecting the Christian Church today is how Christians have their faith impacted when it comes to the voting booth,” Wright said. “[The] message will talk about and try to deconstruct the myth that if one is a believer in Christ, that that belief system and your faith is somehow confined to the sanctuary and your personal life and it should stay away from politics.”
Sophomore Michael Wilson, a Carver Fellows Scholar, believes that Wright was a good choice as a recipient for the Carver Medal.
“Wright’s contributions to the African American spiritual community are unrivaled,” Wilson said. “He gets a lot of flack from the media for speaking critically about race, and I think he doesn’t deserve that, especially because he’s speaking the truth.”