Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) will deliver Elon University’s 2014 Baccalaureate address, scheduled for May 23 at 3 p.m. in Alumni Gym.
The IFYC is an organization that promotes interfaith collaboration among young people. Patel, an American Muslim of Indian heritage, has spoken at several conferences as well as college and university campuses across the country.
“I think that Baccalaureate is a perfect opportunity to speak about the cooperation between people of different faiths,” Patel said.
Baccalaureate is typically a religious-based service that precedes Commencement, which is set for May 24 this year. Jan Fuller, university chaplain at Elon, invited Patel to speak at the university this spring.
“Baccalaureate is a spiritual event that celebrates the accomplishments of the graduates,” Fuller said. “In my mind, it is the opening of commencement weekend, a service in which we think about the meaning of one’s Elon years. We hope that many will come who are not religious, too, because it’s for all seniors.”
He has addressed the Elon community twice and said he is excited about his upcoming speech to the graduating class. In 2011, he was a panelist for the Spring Convocation that focused on changes facing American society. He also served on the panel of spiritual leaders at Spring Convocation in 2013. Fuller said that Patel has been a model for interfaith dialogue in his past appearances and thinks he will offer encouragement this spring.
“It seems appropriate to have Dr. Patel [as the speaker] because of our long association with him, but also because he is one of the nation’s primary figures who represents the importance of interfaith and multi-faith engagement and its impacts on campus and the world,” Fuller said.
Preparing students to be global citizens embraces the Elon Commitment, the university’s strategic plan. Patel said that the interfaith education that takes place in Elon’s Numen Lumen Center puts it at the forefront of universities promoting interfaith cooperation.
“Broadly speaking, I hope that what I say adds to a process that’s already taking place,” Patel said. “I think having an appreciative understanding of other faiths is an essential part of global citizenship.”
He served on President Barack Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and was named one of the top 10 Young Muslim Visionaries Shaping Islam in America by Islamica Magazine.
While Patel said he hasn’t crafted his speech yet, Fuller suspected that he will draw inspiration from his own religious traditions as well as others.
“What I love about Eboo is that he is refreshingly non-defensive, and yet passionate about his own religion and practice,” Fuller said. “That is the picture of what I want our students to be, of what we want to promote at Elon—the opportunity to be most fully who you are, and at the same time to be in deep and honest relationship with others.”
Senior Taylor Reneau said she hopes that students will take advantage of the opportunity to gather as a class and hear Patel’s message. She said that the speech will contribute to the understanding that was cultivated in her Elon religion classes.
“It helped me to meet a lot of people from other religions,” Reneau said. “Elon has helped me because it pushed me out of my comfort zone.”
Senior Julie Hart also said she thinks her class will be able to draw inspiration from Patel’s speech.
“I don't know very much about him, so I am also curious to attend the ceremony and learn from his speech,” Hart said. “I hope he can relate his experiences to our lives as students and graduates and give us advice on how to be leaders"