Ruth Messinger selected as Baccalaureate speaker

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This year’s selection of baccalaureate speaker demonstrates the university’s values of diversity and social action, according to Jan Fuller, university chaplain.

Elon University invited Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service, to speak at the 2012 baccalaureate ceremony. American Jewish World Service is an international organization that supports human rights for marginalized people through education of global citizenship and social justice through activism.

While Fuller said she views the selection of Messinger as a signal the university embraces multiple world views, Nancy Luberoff, the Hillel campus director of the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, focused on the message associated with the speaker’s organization.

“Having her come demonstrates a strong commitment to social justice,” Luberoff said. “For me, in some ways, more important than the Jewish part is the social justice part.”

Messinger worked on President Barack Obama’s administration’s Task Force on Global Poverty and Development and currently serves on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. She has advised the president on issues regarding the genocide in Sudan and developing a sustainable way to achieve peace in Sudan.

Messinger represents the commitment Elon University hopes to instill in its students, Fuller said.

“I think she fits wonderfully within the Elon community because we are a community of service and thoughtful action in the world,” she said. “That is the community we aspire to be as well.”

When choosing a baccalaureate speaker, the university looks for someone who can provide inspiration to graduates and their families, but also challenges the class to use their education to improve the world, according to Fuller.

“She’s hard on us and our obligation to respond to not just crisis, but issues of social justice in the world, and I would expect that she would call on the graduates to do the same, to look at their lives and call on them to give back,” Luberoff said.

Messinger’s address will celebrate the graduates’ achievements and encourage the students to actively pursue their own ideals, Fuller said. Nevertheless, the invitation to Messinger also signifies a continued relationship between the university and American Jewish World Service. Elon University Hillel partnered with American Jewish World Service to work with Servicios Medicos Comunales, a nongovernmental organization in Nicaragua for alternative spring break.

There is not a religious component to the service the organization provides, according to Luberoff.

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