Dr. Eboo Patel said Tuesday that he loves speaking on college campuses because that’s where society’s leaders are nurtured.
Speaking at an evening lecture at Martin Hall, Patel said colleges bring a “critical mass” of young people of different identities together.
“Campuses value affirming people’s identities, but also creating bridges between different identities,” said Patel, the 2017 Willson Lectureship speaker.
Patel is the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit working to make interfaith cooperation a part of everyday life, according to the organization’s website, ifyc.org.
His campus visit on Tuesday included lunch with student organizations, a workshop, a faculty reception, the presentation at Martin Hall and a book signing.
Patel’s book Sacred Ground was available at the presentation; Patel signed copies after his speech. The book is about interfaith in America from the civil rights movement to the founding of the United States.
“The story of America is the story of welcoming people from a range of different religious identities and nurturing positive relationships between them,” Patel said.
Patel said he hopes students will be inspired to learn more about history and religion to help themselves become interfaith leaders.
“There is great history in America of interfaith cooperation and I think the next chapter of American history also has to be characterized by interfaith cooperation,” Patel said.
Patel said that to encourage the building of common ground the Interfaith Youth Core encourages people from different religions to highlight areas of common ground, such as service to others.
“If you going into something like teaching or medicine or social work or diplomacy or business, literally any field imaginable, you’re going to be working with and for people who are from a range of different backgrounds,” Patel said. “Having a wider sense of appreciation and understanding for a range of different religious traditions becomes that much more important.”
Texas Wesleyan President Frederick Slabach introduced Patel to the Martin Hall audience.
Slabach said, “He [Patel] is able to create a whole theory around some of the issues that we have been grappling with here on this campus. I am very hopeful that the seeds he planted today will bear fruit here on this campus in the future.”
Senior mass communication major Heather Birge said Patel’s presentation was great.
“He really spoke to our campus as an individual campus,” Birge said. “He was able to put himself as a college student in the setting and make everything very relatable.”
As the Student Government Association’s School of Arts and Letters representative, she was able to spend the day with Patel as he traveled around campus.
“I thought that Eboo was able to put himself on the campus and really engage in what we have going on as far as diversity and cultures here at Texas Wesleyan,” Birge said.