Zaytuna College Commencement 2018

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Event Name: Zaytuna College Commencement 2018
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 6/17/2019
Transcript Version: 1

Transcript Text

including Yale Princeton

and most recently Northwestern


he is currently professor emeritus of

history his brave book which is I was

very much aware of dr. wills before and

had a couple of his books in my library

but I found his book I actually stumbled

on it in a new-age bookstore what the

Quran meant and why it matters and it

wasn't that I was looking for any New

Age books but I whenever I passed by a

bookstore I kind of feel a magnetic pull

so I went in there and I I found his

book what the Quran meant and why it

matters it received wide critical

acclaim with the New York Times

proclaiming that wills has written

perhaps the best introduction to the

Quran the Chicago Tribune has called

Garry wills America's public

intellectual the New York Times said

he's one of our most important

intellectuals so please welcome our

commencement speaker dr. Garry wills


I made it


my dear brothers and sisters under the

one god it is generous of you to invite

me here to share your time of proud

achievement you have mastered two

cultures to advance the prosperity of

both and foster greater understanding

between fellow creatures and our shared

God the unsung heroes of most ceremonies

like this are the parents they are the

ones who first taught the graduates and

have supported and encouraged and

inspired them through years that was

certainly true of my parents neither of

them had gone to college but they were

very pleased that I was able to do that

and go on to graduate school and go on

to teach

It was as if they had done it themselves

and in a sense they had I come here out

of a certain degree of shame it was

shame that made me belatedly study and

come to love the Quran despite a

lifetime of studying religion I was

ashamed that I had not read the Quran

until the claims that it was responsible

for the tragedy of 9/11 made me start

investigating such hateful charges as I

came to know more about Islam I also

felt shame as an American

that a man who is now the President of

the United States would mock and

humiliate the parents of an American war

hero who died for this country

captain Humayun Khan who Mayans father

kids recon who has a law degree from

Harvard tried to instruct Donald Trump

on the Constitution only to have Trump

insult his wife and call him a puppet of

Hillary Clinton such ignorance is alas

not uncommon but as is not normally

rewarded with the presidency I'm I am

also ashamed for this country whose

boast has been that it supports freedom

of religion and yet it sees actions to

prevent the building of mosques or to

encourage the desecration of them this

despite the fact that the Quran says

that believers in the one God should

protect one another's places of worship

including I quote monasteries churches

synagogues and mosques you graduates

have completed today an important stage

in a project that is vital to our

country to increase the understanding of

the role Islam should play in American

life fulfilling the First Amendment's

pledge of religious freedom you

understand what kisra Khan was trying to

teach that recalcitrant student to

Donald Trump you are trained not only in

Muslim scholarship but in the liberal

arts whose aim is to know the whole

culture of the human mind many years

ago when I was a young the liberal arts

were somewhat restricted in their range

they referred especially to the Greek

and Roman cultures and to Europeans who

boasted that they were transmitting

these classics the high school I went to

offered its students four years of Latin

and two years of Greek the Greek

language appealed to me so much that I

went on to study it throughout college

and throughout graduate school and I

taught Greek for some years as a faculty

member but it took me a while to realize

that the humanities were not as

exclusively European as I had first been

taught during the Dark Ages in Europe

the writings of Aristotle the great

Greek philosopher had been entirely lost

in the West but they were preserved

studied and commented on in the Muslim

world he was not until the 13th century

that Western thinkers like Albertus

Magnus and Thomas Aquinas retrieved

Aristotle from great Muslim thinkers

like Avicenna and Avera Wiis who had

been experts in that subject for a year

for centuries before the West even

became aware of them the revelations

were so new to Europeans that they tried

to reject them as an alien intrusion in

1277 the University of Paris the

principal center of theological study at

the time the place where thomas aquinas

had been a teacher condemned

acquaintances teaching saying have made

him more an Aristotelian than a

christian just think what a shrunken


their own past the teachers in Paris

would have bequeathed to us if that

condemnation of the new information had

been retained and deepened now we know

that the humanities the liberal arts

include the study of many cultures after

all humans are humans wherever they live

and if one believes in one God he is the

maker and protector and the mall Allah

and the Quran says that he sends

messages to all people all the time

speaking to them in their own languages

there were some Americans who objected

when the first Muslim was elected to the

United States Congress and took his oath

of office not on the Bible but on the

Koran few of them realized that the

Quran keith Ellison placed his hands on

was the very personal copy that had been

owned by Thomas Jefferson it is now in

the Library of Congress which led it to

congressman Ellison for his swearing in

Jefferson it turns out was far ahead of


in knowing that we should be interested

in all the religions of all men the

importance of this to him was such that

he listed his Virginia statute of

religious freedom among the three things

he wanted to be remembered for the only

things to be inscribed on his tombstone

they were the Declaration of

Independence the statute of religious

freedom in the founding of the

University of Virginia he wanted those

things listed and quote not a word more

close quote Jefferson in his

autobiography describes his aim in the

statute of religious freedom it was

quote to comprehend within its mantle of


the Jew and the Gentile the Christian

and the Mohammedan the Hindu and the

infidel of every denomination close

quote Jefferson with his curiosity about

all things probably knew that as many as

twenty percent of the slaves brought to

America from Africa were Muslims the

Jeffersonian principle of religious

freedom was recognized in the White

House during the presidencies of Bill

Clinton George Bush W Bush and Barack

Obama in all of which Ramadan was

celebrated along with Passover and

Easter this official recognition of our

major religions is another American

tradition President Trump does not

recognize the three presidents I

mentioned all visited the Washington

area mosque during their presidency and

when he was there President Obama said

prompting laughter Thomas Jefferson's

opponents tried to stir up things by

suggesting he was a Muslim so I was not

the first you graduates have great

things to contribute to our expanding

culture and some ugly prejudices to

contradict with by your accomplishments

this day part of your obligation is to