Eboo Patel to Speak on Leadership in an Era of Religious Strife

September 1, 2010

TACOMA, Wash. – Eboo Patel will never forget the time in high school when he abandoned a Jewish friend when he was needed most. A group of “thugs” had scratched anti-Semitic slurs on desks and shouted them in the hallways, Patel says, and while his friend suffered in silence, Patel made himself scarce, pretending not to notice. Years after they graduated, the high school friend revealed to Patel the fear he experienced and how abandoned he had felt. As Patel later told it to an NPR reporter, it was the most humiliating experience of his life.

Today Patel is executive director of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a Chicago-based institution devoted to the global interfaith youth movement. He is also a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The high school incident, it seems, served one purpose: It helped define Patel’s future.

Eboo Patel will deliver a lecture at University of Puget Sound on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010, starting at 6:30 p.m. The talk, titled “Acts of Faith: Interfaith Leadership at a Time of Global Religious Crisis,” will take place in Schneebeck Concert Hall, with a book signing and reception following in Rasmussen Rotunda in Wheelock Student Center. The lecture, sponsored by the Swope Endowed Lectureship on Ethics, Religion, Faith, and Values, is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. See below for details.

Patel describes his talk thus: “A leader defines reality. In a world too often convinced of the inevitable clash of civilizations, how do we lead our communities of faith to work with people from different religious and philosophical backgrounds and serve the common good? From Martin Luther King Jr. to Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day to Abraham Joshua Heschel, the answer is clear: interfaith leadership.”

Patel is the author of the award-winning book Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, and frequently contributes to The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and CNN. He also serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations and on the board of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

A Rhodes Scholar, who obtained his doctorate from Oxford University, Patel has spoken at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) Conference, Clinton Global Initiative, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and at universities around the world. He was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, and, along with IFYC, received the Roosevelt Institute’s Freedom of Worship Medal.

Patel founded IFYC to bring youth from different faiths together to cooperate in community service projects and to encourage them to talk about their common values. He hopes IFYC will enrich society and help reduce the ignorance that underlies religious-based hate crimes.

Although Patel cannot change what he did all those years ago, “through action I can prevent it from happening to others,” he said in a 2005 NPR report.  “We live in a world where the forces that seek to divide us are strong. To overcome them we must do more than simply stand next to one another in silence.

“I realize now that to believe in pluralism means I need the courage to act on it. Action is what separates a belief from an opinion.”

Complimentary tickets are available beginning Monday, Aug. 23, from the information desk in Wheelock Student Center or by calling 253.879.3419. Seating is limited and advance ordering is recommended. The doors will open at 6 p.m. Please note that at 6:20 p.m., any unclaimed seats will be allocated to those waiting to attend—so all unused tickets will be void at that time.

Eboo Patel may be available for individual press interviews. Please contact Media Relations Manager Shirley Skeel as above.

For directions and a map of the campus: www.pugetsound.edu/directions.xml

Press-quality photos of Eboo Patel can be downloaded from: www.pugetsound.edu/pressphotos.xml Photo Credit: Nubar Alexanian

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