The News Service
The 236th Commencement
Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi to deliver baccalaureate address
Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi will address graduating seniors at Brown’s baccalaureate service on Sunday, May 30, 2004, at 1:30 p.m. in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America. Seating is limited to graduating seniors; the baccalaureate service will be simulcast to The College Green.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi will deliver the baccalaureate address to graduating seniors at Brown University on Sunday, May 30, 2004, at 1:30 p.m. in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church of America. Her talk will be translated into English. The entire baccalaureate service will be simulcast to The College Green, where parents and friends are invited to view the service on a large screen.
In 2003, Ebadi became the first Iranian and the first woman from a Muslim country to win the Nobel Peace Prize. As an activist, she works to strengthen the legal status for women, children and refugees. A founder and leader of the Association for Support of Children’s Rights in Iran, Ebadi wrote The Rights of the Child: A study of legal aspects of children’s rights in Iran, published with support from UNICEF.
Born in 1947, Ebadi received a law degree from the University of Tehran and became one of the first female judges in Iran, serving as president of the city court of Tehran. She was forced to resign that position in 1979 when conservative Islamic clerics took control of the country and introduced severe restrictions on the role of women in society. Ebadi now works as a lawyer and teaches at the University of Tehran. As a lawyer, she has been involved in a number of controversial political cases and has spent time in prison for her work.
Known for promoting peaceful, democratic solutions to serious problems in society, Ebadi was recently named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most powerful and influential people in the world. Other awards include Norway’s 2001 Rafto Prize in recognition of her sustained fight over many years for human rights and democracy in Iran.
The baccalaureate is a medieval tradition that incorporates the custom of presenting the candidates for the degree of bachelor (bacci) with the laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration. Brown’s president delivered the baccalaureate sermon until 1937, when Henry Wriston, the first University president who was not a Baptist minister, assumed office.
“We think of the address as a present to the graduating class,” said Janet Cooper Nelson, University chaplain. “We are saying to the people walking out of here with their degrees, ‘Look forward to using them in a deeply sacred and responsible way.’”
The service will begin with the Lion Dance, a Chinese New Year tradition in which the lion banishes evil spirits and brings good luck to the places where he dances. There will then be a Muslim call to prayer, followed by a Hindu blessing, a Baha’i reading, a Christian reading, a Jewish text and a text from the Zen Buddhist tradition.