share your story transcript by HC121104055546

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                                                                                Moderator: Ken Bedell
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                                   Moderator: Ken Bedell
                                    September 24, 2012
                                       1:00 pm CT



Coordinator:     Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time all participants are in a
                 listen-only mode. After today's presentation we will conduct a question and
                 answer session. To ask a question, please press star 1.


                 And today's conference is being recorded. If you have any objections, you
                 may disconnect at this time. I'll now turn the meeting over Brenda Girton-
                 Mitchell. Ma'am, you may begin.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:     Thank you so much. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for
                 joining us for our call today. We apologize for the change. The plan was to
                 have it as a Webinar, but we knew that we could still do the audio portion so
                 we decided it was best to go forward.


                 So we will tell you upfront that as soon as the PowerPoint, the Webinar
                 documents can be lifted up onto the Web site, we'll alert you to that and you'll
                 still be able to get the documents that would have related to today's call. But
                 we're going to go - move ahead today.
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We promised you that we would have a session talking about storytelling
since we always emphasize how important it is to tell stories. There are some
tips to how to make our stories more powerful.


And I believe that all of us have a story and sometimes in the work that we do,
our focus is really on everybody else's story, how to get them to tell it, and yet
if we stop for a minute and think about our stories in the context of the work
that we're doing with the President's Interfaith and Community Service
Campus Challenge, I think it would often give us depth to our work. And it
would also give us another lens and another set of ears for how to hear and
receive the work that's being done on college campuses.


And so I have found in doing the work here at the office that I'm excited about
talking about what I've heard and lately I began to think about what I've
learned and that becomes a much more personal story and I think will make
me a - more effective as an ambassador as I share the work that we're doing
through the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.


And so that's sort of the - our backdrop today, to not only learn about telling
stories, how - and we'll share some of our own stories and the best practices
and tips that we've learned as we've done the work, so we'll try to strengthen
what we do by sharing together today.


And so we have a very exciting program outlined for us today. And before we
get into the content of storytelling and I get to share with you our most
exciting presenter, we're going to hear from Mary Ellen Giess at the Interfaith
Youth Core. We promised some information about press releases and we've
got some dates we need to remind you of and some goals that we want to talk
about. Mary Ellen has been one of our champions since we started this work.
We're really happy that she's able to be on the line today.
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                 So Mary Ellen, would you share with us today? We thank you for being on the
                 call.


Mary Ellen Giess: Well, thank you so much, Brenda. And thanks to everyone who's taken the
                 time to call in this afternoon. I hope you're all having a happy Monday and
                 we're really glad to have you with us today.


                 As Brenda said, I just wanted to offer a few reminders as well as resources for
                 those of you who are able to join us today. As Brenda said, there are a number
                 of facets to storytelling. One is a personal story of how you as an individual
                 are connected to this work and how your campus is prioritizing this. And the
                 other is, of course, a larger story, a narrative that we want to share with the
                 media, with the world, and that aspect of storytelling, you know, sharing the
                 impact that we're having, is so important towards all of us seeing the larger
                 impact and towards building a broader movement for this work.


                 So the first resource that I wanted to share is one that IFYC has up on our
                 Web site. It is a press release template available on our President's Challenge
                 Web site. The link for that is www.ifyc.org/presidents-challenge. On that page
                 the first thing that you'll see at the top is a scrolling box of resources. In that
                 resource box there is a template that we've put together for - that can be used
                 as a press release. And there are marked spots where you, as an individual
                 campus, can go ahead and insert your specific information about your
                 institution and use that to get the word out more broadly within the press.


                 We've seen that really successful campuses at doing this sort of broader media
                 outreach have a great partnership with their communications office or their
                 public affairs office. Notable - a couple of notable examples have been able to
                 work together between the lead office and the communications or public
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affairs office to really she- spread a wide message, both online as well as in
local print media, about the story of impact that their campus has been having.
And so that's one resource that we wanted to offer to you as a way to support
you as you share your campus stories more broadly.


The other element of storytelling that I - element of personal story and
connecting to the larger mission and connecting that to a public story is what
we'll hear more about later on the call, so look forward to that.


The second thing that I wanted to notify people of is the fact that our program
plan deadline is coming up soon. October 15 is the deadline for that. You can
go - you can find the template for that program plan online at the Department
of Education Faith-Based Office Web site, so it's ed.gov/edpartners. And at
the top of that page is a link that will - says information about the President's
Challenge. If you click on that that gives you the page that's got all of the
resources that are necessary to participate in the challenge.


The first thing is if you haven't submitted your official program participation
form yet, please go ahead and do that. You can download the PDF there and
just submit it by email to edpartners@ed.gov.


Then the second thing, of course, is the October 15 deadline, which is the
official program plan template. That needs to be submitted to the White House
Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. All the information is
available on the template - and the template on that Web site. So there
shouldn't be any questions, but if there are please don't hesitate to be in touch
with us. We really want to support you guys and help you out as you're
putting together your plans for the year.
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The last thing is a continued aspiration that we at the Interfaith Youth Core
share with the White House as well as the Department of Education, which is
that when we first launched the President's Challenge, President Obama was
given the recommendation from the Faith-Based Advisory Council to reach
500 campuses through the interfaith work that we're doing through this
challenge and we continue to try to meet that goal. So we are really hoping to
get as many campuses as possible, of course, involved in the challenge, but
specifically to meet the goal that President Obama has set out for us of 500
institutions.


One of the most critical ways that we're doing this is by asking each
participating institution to please connect with and (add) another campus to
join us on the challenge. All of you are passionate about this work, you feel
strongly that it's something that needs to be done, and you've got connections
of your own and networks that you can utilize to help increase the number of
institutions that are committed to work and doing this work over the course of
the year.


So we're asking that each one of you, if you could, just think for a second and
identify one person on another campus that you could reach out to and send
them a bit of information about the President's Challenge. Maybe you want to
share a little bit of your story and practice what we're talking about on the
Webinar. Maybe you want to share what your campus did this year and how it
was effective within the community. But what we need from them is to please
submit the intent to participate form, which, again, you can find on the
Department of Education Web site, ed.gov/edpartners.


So if - we're really hoping that all of you can please make that connection and
bring one more along with you. And if each campus that signed up to
participate already were to do that and go ahead and bring another one, then
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                 we'd well exceed President Obama's goal of having 500 institutions, which
                 we're really excited about and eager to see those numbers.


                 So that's - those are the announcements from me and thank you so much,
                 Brenda. And to everyone, thanks so much for taking the time on the call and
                 look forward connecting with you.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:     Thank you. Thank you, Mary Ellen. And now we're going to hear
                 from Valarie Kaur. Valarie Kaur is an award winning filmmaker and civil
                 rights activist and an interfaith organizer. She will tell you some about her
                 background, how real life events, real life experiences moved her into action.
                 And so we would describe her as one who walks the walk and talks the talk.


                 She is a prolific public speaker. She's been invited to speak on her work in
                 over 200 cities and major media outlets such as CNN and NBC - MSNBC.
                 She's been on the Rachel Maddox Show. She's spoken on NPR, BBC, CBC,
                 the New York Times. And MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry called her one of
                 the most exceptional speakers and thinkers in a new generation of public
                 intellectuals. And that's what the fancy people say about her.


                 What I say about her having met her and having heard her speak is that she's a
                 young woman who has a heart for the world. And in her actions she is
                 showing that she's going to do more than get upset and excited, she's going to
                 get engaged. And telling her story and sharing the story of others is one of the
                 ways that she's doing this so effectively.


                 So I'm honored that she was able to take a moment from her very busy
                 schedule to share with us today on the power of storytelling and how we can
                 harness the power of storytelling to advance the very important goals that we
                 share together.
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                So Valarie, we welcome you on the call and we're excited to hear what you
                will share with us today.


Valarie Kaur:   Thank you so much, Brenda. That was a really beautiful introduction. Thank
                you so much. It's a real privilege to be here with you this afternoon. I am the
                director of Groundswell, which is a nonprofit initiative at Auburn Seminary
                devoted to using storytelling to mobilize faith communities for social change.
                I also run a program at Yale Law School training students how to use film or
                the art of visual advocacy in legal issues and causes.


                I've studied religion and law at Stanford University as an undergrad, at
                Harvard Divinity School, and at Yale Law School. But I say all that to tell you
                that actual - actually my real training, my true training came outside of school.
                I came of age in the shadow of 9/11 where it really learned how to advocate
                on behalf of my own community and other communities who still seek to live,
                work, and worship in America without fear.


                And my training, my experiences this last decade has really deepened my
                appreciation for what I call strategic storytelling, using the power of stories
                for social change. I believe that stories can bind us, can break us open, can
                make us human to each other. More than facts and figures it's stories that work
                on the inside, enabling us to cultivate the deep empathy to see ourselves in
                one another.


                And so it's really the question of how to use storytelling for social change that
                I'm excited to talk with you about today. I've organized my talk into two parts.
                First, I wanted to tell you - share with you my own journey that I think
                captures the power of story and especially the importance of using story in
                this particular historical moment in our nation's history. And then secondly, I
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wanted to offer how you can use the power of storytelling on your campuses
via the President's Challenge.


So we'll start at the beginning. In the aftermath of September 11, I was a 20-
year-old college student when the terrorist attacks happened. I was a 20-year-
old college kid at Stanford University. I was at home at my parents' house
watching the towers fall over and over between images of a turbaned and
bearded Osama Bin Laden. And it was only moments before I realized that
this picture of our nation's new enemy looked like my family, looked like my
brothers, looked like my cousins, looked like my grandfathers.


My family had sailed - my grandfather had sailed by steamship from Punjab,
settled in California more than 100 years ago. For 100 years as a Sikh-
American family we had been living in the United States and yet in that one
instance we suddenly became automatically suspect, perpetually foreign, and
potentially terrorists in the eyes of our neighbors.


It was only moments later when we started to hear news of hate violence
spread across America, happening in almost every city in this country. Word
really spread word of mouth. It went from home to home, from gurdwara to
gurdwara as suddenly men, women, and children were seized with incredible
fear. And these stories weren't making the evening news.


On September 15, we received word that Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh
man, was gunned down in Mesa, Arizona by a man who called himself a
patriot. Sodhi was the first person killed in a post 9/11 hate crime. He was a
Sikh-American. He was the first of more than two dozen people killed in the
immediate aftermath and his story barely registered in our national landscape.
It was sort of drowned out by the anthem of national unity.
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And so as a 20-year-old college student, I felt very helpless. I remember
escaping to my bedroom and closing the door and just hiding for days. I didn't
want to go back to school when I felt like my community was under attack
and yet I didn't know quite what I could do. I was a third generation kid. I had
poor Punjabi skills. I had nothing to my name except for a high school degree.
I had never really held a film camera before. But it was in that moment of
darkness and despair that the words of my grandfather came back to me, the
heart of the Sikh faith, Nam Dan Isnan. In order to realize yourself, in order to
realize God, you must act here and now without fear.


And so with those words, I crossed the gulf of fear before me. I asked my
university if I could take time off of school and use a grant I had been given to
capture stories of hate violence across America. They said yes. Which I just
want to note this moment, if they had not said yes my entire life would be
utterly different, so don't underestimate the power you have as university and
college administrators. They said yes. They gave me the green light. And just
like that, at 20 I grabbed my camera, I got in my car, and I crossed the country
in the aftermath of 9/11.


We went from city to city, from home to home and captured hundreds of
stories of men, women, and children who were caught up in the violence. We
literally went to places were the blood was still fresh on the ground, where the
news reporters were nowhere to be seen and we were there to capture the pain,
the suffering, the grief, and also the hope and the possibility for healing.


At some point in the journey, the camera spun 180 degrees on myself and my
cousin who was with me and also wore a turban as people began to tell us to
go home, to go back to our country, to go back to where we belonged. And it
was quite a way to come of age as someone that young to see myself through
the eyes of others who saw me as not American.
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And I think I would have allowed that kind of despair and anger to eat me
whole if it weren’t for the very last interview that I did. I ended up traveling
around the world to see the widow of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the widow of the
first person killed in the aftermath. We traveled through many fields, through
many villages to find her in Punjab in a village surrounded by farms. She was
standing in front of her home. She was wearing white, the color of mourning.


And I had no questions for her. She would just tear up at the mention of her
husband's name. But when I sat down with her, I could think of just one
question. I asked her, "What would you tell the people of America?"


And I was expecting anger, I was expecting resentment or bitterness, and she
said, "Tell them thank you. When I went to Phoenix for my husband's funeral,
they came out in the thousands and they wept with me and they prayed for me.
And not just Sikhs, there were Muslims, Jews, Christians, everybody. Tell
them thank you for caring."


And it was her words that inspired me to finish what I began, to finish the
film. I realized that the people of Phoenix came out in the thousands because
they had heard Balbir Singh Sodhi's story because unlike on the national
stage, the community in Phoenix did an incredible job of telling the story of
Balbir Singh Sodhi to the local Phoenix community.


They told the story about how he had escaped India, religious violence in
order to come to America for a better life. They told the story about how he
would never see his grandchildren, how his widow's heart was now broken,
and that story, more than facts and figures and information about who Sikhs
are versus who Muslims are, that story was the story that inspired incredible
gestures of love and solidarity in a time of darkness.
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So inspired by that, I imagined, well, what could happen if we could tell that
story to the nation? And so with a team of 20-somethings, again, all of us
young, all of us college kids, all of us living on our parents' couches and
borrowing money, and raising $10 here or $50 here to make this film, we
together made the film Divided We Fall, which became the first feature length
documentary film about hate violence after 9/11.


In 2006, the film was released and we won a bunch of awards at film festivals.
We hit national news. But what was really extraordinary, and you may relate
to this as folks at colleges and universities, was that we discovered that
campuses, more than any other place, were just hungry for ways to talk about
September 11 or brave new ways to talk about religion and race and power in
this country.


And so I ended up living out of my suitcase once again. I traveled to 200 US
cities with the film, screening the film. And what I really discovered was, you
know, initially I had taken the film out to the world hoping to tell the story of
the Sikh community, and what I discovered was once you tell a story in its
particularity, people see themselves in it in ways that are able to create lasting
social change.


So for example, I remember being in Chicago and an African-American man
stood up, told his story, pointed to his braids and said, "My braids are my
turban."


I remember being in New York and a gay man stood up, told his story, and
said, "Just as I have to fight for the right of gays to come out of the closet, I
have to fight for the right of Sikhs to wear their turbans."
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I remember being in the South when an evangelical man stood up, told his
story, and said, "You know, Valarie, you and I have more in common than
you think. I, too, have been seen as an outsider."


These remarkable moments when people had the courage to tell their own
untold stories made me understand how stories themselves have - can inspire
action. Stories in themselves can inspire others to tell their own stories. They
can cultivate the deep empathy that allows us to see ourselves in one another.
They can cultivate the empathy that allows us to expand the circle of who
counts as one of us to include all of us.


These colleges, these deans and departments and student groups who would
invite me, invite us to come and screen the film, they in turn would witness
sort of these moments of healing and deep dialogue on their campuses and
then find a way to tell the story about that event to their local communities.


And that's what I'll get to in the second part, is what I learned from watching
them. But I want to say one more thing before I get to that second part about
the power of using stories to combat hate and build community in this
particular moment.


As many of you know, let's fast forward to 2012, last month in Oak Creek,
Wisconsin on August 5 a white supremacist walked into a Sikh gurdwara and
opened fire. He killed six people and injured three more. One is still fighting
for his life in the hospital. This was the greatest tragedy in Sikh-American
history, but it was also an incredibly important tragedy in American history in
that it may be the largest racially motivated mass shooting in recent US
history.
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The event was not isolated. In a time when the economy is still recovering,
when hate groups are on an alarming rise, when guns are easily accessible,
when political rhetoric becomes incredibly divisive, including during this
election season, we know that campuses have, I believe have a special
responsibility to think of ways to combat hate and build community.


Just a few days ago, I was in the US Senate which held a historic hearing in
response to Oak Creek. And as much as we were emboldened by the
commitment of our national leaders in the halls of power to fight hate, they
turned around and told us that this conversation about how to combat hate in
America must not only take place at the highest levels of government, it must
take place in our schools, in our houses of worship, in our communities, and
on our college campuses.


So many colleges have now turned to us and asked us, well, what can we do to
respond to Oak Creek, what can we do to combat hate in America? And
Groundswell, together with Interfaith Youth Core, in partnership with the
White House, has proposed a way. So after this call, we'll be sending a link.
It's groundswell-movement.org/campuses-combat-hate. Again, that's
groundswell-movement.org/campuses-combat-hate.


We propose that you choose one of three films. You can also choose Divided
We Fall. We've made them available for free. Host a screening on your
campus. Interfaith Youth Core can connect you with Sikh students we've
identified on your campus to speak alongside the screening to tell their own
stories. And then we propose you can follow that up with a yearlong service
project with a local gurdwara. All of this can be done as part of the President's
Interfaith Challenge.
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So that is my story as a way to inspire you all to think about ways that you can
bring storytelling to your campus, especially in this incredible moment in our
history.


In my second part, I'd like now to talk about how you then, after hosting a
powerful event like a film screening or a service project, can tell the story of
that event to your larger campus and to your wider community. And for this I
will break into three parts. And this is really inspired by Marshall Ganz's
work, who is an incredible activist scholar at Harvard. His three-part formula
is something that I find to be quite effective and what a lot of colleges ended
up using after we screened Divided We Fall.


The first part, part one is story of self. So his three parts are story of self, story
of us, and story of now. So part one is story of self. He invites us to identify a
story of individuals who have undergone, number one, some kind of
incredible challenge; number two, were faced with choices about how to
respond to that challenge; and, number three, experienced the outcomes.


So in the programs that you lead, you might want to identify one or two
students who have engaged in the most transformative, inspiring, or surprising
story in the process of engaging the President's Challenge. And when you
identify who those folks are or what story you want to focus on, focus on what
it is that has moved you, what has made your heart ache, what has made you
swell with pride. If it's emotionally resonant for you, then it will be for the
people you tell.


So when you identify that story of self, a story of individuals, whoever they
are, you want to jot down the challenges that they faced, their assumptions
coming in, the choices they made perhaps in the relationship they formed in
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the project, and the outcomes they experienced, how it changed their lives.
That's number one, story of self.


Number two is story of us. So how is that particular story about those two
students you've identified connected to the larger story of your campus, of
your program, of your community, or for our country?


And number three is story of now. How is that experience of transformation
absolutely critical for this particular moment in our history? In your campus's
history, in our country's history. I think of the President's terminology, the
fierce urgency of now. This is where you get to put it in context, why that
story of self, connected to the story of us, is deeply resonant in this particular
moment in time.


After you've identified those three elements of the story you want to tell, then
it's time to strategize about how to tell it, what forms to tell it in. And I'm a
huge advocate of using multiple formats in order to strategically place that
story for public audiences. So identifying that story inside of a press release,
sketching it out in a longer form through a blog post or an Op-Ed, cutting it up
into sound bites and for local media interviews, and then pushing it out in a
140 characters on social media.


All of these formats have their internal logic, have their internal templates, but
they can support each other so that you can strategically choose that one
powerful story from your program to your wider audiences.


I'm going to conclude by sharing one story that as I'm telling it I want you to
be able to identify the challenge, choice, and outcomes in the story self, and
then also the story of us and the story of now.
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So here is the story I usually tell as a great model. After September 11, my
professor was on a bus in San Jose when a man at the front of the bus stood
up, turned around red in the face, pointed to my professor and yelled, "Hey
you f-ing terrorist, get off this bus, go back to your country." My professor
wears a turban and beard, like my grandfather. He knew this moment, he
stood - he sat completely quiet, shaken, looking out the window praying for
the moment to pass. So you can say - you can identify that as the challenge in
the story. Right.


And then something remarkable happened. The other people on the bus stood
up. The white man, the black girl, the Asian kid. They all stood up and they
took this man's hand and they told him to sit down, sit down. And the man sat
down. So that's the choice in the story.


The bus comes to a stop and my professor gets off the bus and the man gets
off the bus and the man comes up to my professor and puts out his hand. And
at this point I'm waiting for the violence to happen. I'm waiting for the
moment where I will cry. And instead the man takes my professor's hand and
shakes it and says, "I just lost my daughter - my granddaughter in that second
plane that went into that second tower. I'm just angry. I'm sorry." So that's the
outcome in the story. Right. So that whole thing was the story of self.


What stays with me about that story is not necessarily the man's
transformation, which is itself incredibly powerful. What stays with me about
that story are the people on that bus. It's the people who have stood up in the
most ordinary of circumstances to say and do the most extraordinary thing.
We are the people on that bus. So right now this is the story of us. We are the
people on that bus. We are the ones who can stand up and eclipse hate and
fear and violence with our gestures of love and respect and community.
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                 And in this moment in our nation's history, in the wake of the tragedy in Oak
                 Creek and the recent violence at mosques across the country, I believe that we
                 need this kind of groundswell now more than ever to eclipse love and fear
                 with hope and healing. And that's the story of now.


                 So that - I'm hoping that in - just in that story, which I've told so many times
                 because it really has been the thing that's kept me going, just in that story you
                 can identify the story of self, the individual story with challenge, choices, and
                 outcomes; the story of us, the people on that bus, right, we are the people on
                 that bus; and the story of now, why that story is so important here and now.


                 I believe that you could take that template, that format and apply that to the
                 moments that you find most powerful in the programs that you lead. And I'm
                 hoping that you will do this in this coming year because I genuinely do
                 believe in the fierce urgency in this moment to combat hate and build
                 community on your campuses.


                 I'm going to close now, open it up for questions. Brenda, should I turn it over
                 to you.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      Yes. Thank you so much. And if we were all in the same place, we
                 would be clapping and crying and thanking you for, even in such a brief
                 presentation, being able to get us inspired and to see how important the
                 individual action is.


                 And so, operator, we are ready to open the lines, if there are questions. Ken,
                 are you going to help him know who (to call us)?


Ken Bedell:      I will - I'll send him a note.
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Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      Okay.


Coordinator:     And if you do have a question, please make sure your phone is unmuted and
                 press star 1. When prompted, record your name slowly and clearly. Once
                 again, it's star 1 if you have a question. One moment, please.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      Valarie, I'd like to start with one as we're getting queued up. And
                 how do people reach you personally if there's work they'd like to connect with
                 that you - work that you're doing they'd like to connect with?


Valarie Kaur:    I love that question. You can email directly. It's just Valarie, V-A-L-A-R-I=E,
                 @valariekaur, V-A-L-A-R-I-E-K-A-U-R, dot-com, so
                 valarie@valariekaur.com.


                 The link that we'll send to you all will give you more information about
                 Groundswell. Again, our job is to really equip you all to work with the local
                 Sikh students on your campuses, in your communities, to use the President's
                 Interfaith Challenge to respond to this particular moment to combat hate and
                 build community in the wake of Oak Creek. So I'm happy to work with you
                 alongside IFYC on that.


                 But I'm also happy to talk about storytelling in general. I find that, you know,
                 I'm - in my work as a filmmaker, a civil rights advocate lawyer, organizer, you
                 know, and the writing and the speaking, all of those things for me boil down
                 to my fundamental identity as a storyteller. I feel as though I - I've - I think
                 I've learned how to wield stories strategically as a form of advocacy, so even
                 when I'm writing the legal brief or the complaint, for me it's just another way
                 to make stories legible in the halls of power.
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                 So thinking about stories in the context of campus dialogue is something very,
                 very close to my heart and I think it's an incredibly necessary part of larger
                 social change. So I'm happy to be available for any of these questions.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      Okay. Thank you. And I believe we have a question, operator.


Coordinator:     Yes, we do. Byron Bland, let me open your line.


Byron Bland:     Yes, thank you. My - I wanted to basically make a comment more than a
                 question. I...


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      Okay.


Byron Bland:     Valarie, I hope you remember from your days at Stanford.


Valarie Kaur:    I do.


Byron Bland:     How (you done) - and it's wonderful to see what you have done in the time
                 between when we were working together. I guess really the comment I wanted
                 to make is that, you know, you've done such great things and have gone on to
                 do things, but for those of us who are on campuses I just wanted to make the
                 note that oftentimes some of the small things we do turn out to have big
                 effects and we may not know exactly what the outcome of any particular kind
                 of engagement we have with students like you that may lead to very large
                 things and the kinds of accomplishments that you have done, and I'm very
                 proud that I had maybe some small role to play in the things that you've done.
                 Thank you.
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Valarie Kaur:    Byron, I have - I guess it was meant to be this way. I've wanted for many
                 years to come back to you and thank you for what you taught me when I was
                 an undergrad.


                 I remember being able to take part in the program that you led where you
                 brought Protestants and Catholics from the troubles in Northern Ireland to
                 come together on campus in this supreme exercise of forgiveness. And it was
                 so transformative in my life, it gave me right, you know, I was able to witness
                 the power of hope and healing through friendship and relationship in a way
                 that I think has inspired me, you know, years afterwards. And I never had the
                 opportunity to tell you that.


                 And so if there's any doubt in, not just - I guess not just for you, Byron, but for
                 all of you on your campuses, I think as students go on and do what they do,
                 become who they become, it's extremely challenging once you leave campus
                 to remember to keep hope and inspiration and you end up going back to your
                 experiences in college as stories that will, you know, fuel you from and
                 inspire you for years to come afterwards. It's a really incredibly formative
                 time.


                 And so I think for every - I think the way that, Byron, you inspired me, I think
                 that's probably been replicated a thousand fold on campuses across the
                 country and I - and especially for those folks on the call today. So please don't
                 underestimate the power you have in your students' lives.


                 And Byron, it's so amazing to hear from you.


Byron Bland:     (Yes). Thank you.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:     That's great.
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Byron Bland:     Thank you. And also I just want to say that I'm really proud to know you.
                 Thank you.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:     And, you know, one of the things that we also remember is that if
                 we don't share our stories and our thank yous and our messages, they go to the
                 graves with us. So we do have a responsibility to share in some format,
                 especially those transformative things that happen in our lives, and even the
                 little things become much when some of those first steps would never have
                 led to a second step if somebody hadn't inspired and encouraged us. So I thank
                 you all for sharing that personal moment with us.


                 And there is another question on the line.


Coordinator:     Yes. Ali Gheith, I'll open your line.


Ali Gheith:      Thank you. This is Ali Gheith. I'm a professor at Metropolitan College of New
                 York in the emergency management program. Valarie, thank you so much for
                 sharing this powerful story.


                 And I have to say honestly I do associate with a lot of the things that you have
                 mentioned as an Arab-American living in New York following the events of
                 9/11. I personally myself have experienced many of the challenges, but of
                 course work with the interfaith community here in New York to overcome a
                 lot of these challenges.


                 And being a professor at Metropolitan College in their emergency
                 management program, one of the things that we tasked our students to do
                 during the H1N1 is to bring the entire interfaith community under one roof to
                 discuss one common cause, which is the H1N1. And for the first time in
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(Brooklyn) under the auspices of (Brooklyn Border Hall), we were able to
bring over 165 different faith communities to discuss one common cause. And
there were a lot of commonalities, more than differences.


And the interesting thing about the story that the students continued to work at
a community level with faith-based community leadership to develop whole
community (resiliency) projects where many of these communities who were
marginalized now they are in the planning table.


And that's one of the things that we really found out the most. For many of the
faith communities and minority communities, if they are not in the planning
table and preparing for emergencies, like the - an event for - events of - what
we just happened, you will find that the decision making that influences
certain communities are people who come in with good intention, but their
good intention not necessarily always lead to good results because of the lack
of understanding of the needs of those communities.


So my point is the importance of engaging these communities in the earliest
stages in the planning process so they will be there when their community is
affected by any kind of emergencies, disasters, or crises.


So your story is very similar to what is going on on a regular basis around the
United States and we found it to be very powerful, especially in impoverished
neighborhoods in New York City.


So we continue to do this kind of work at a community level with the faith-
based community. And, as a matter of fact, we do have a training that we are
hosting for disaster chaplaincy coming up very soon at our school to train to
bring faith community leaders from different faith groups to be trained as
disaster chaplains to work together during...
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Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      We - sir, we hope that you will - I have Ken Bedell here. He's
                 going to make sure you know about an event. But absolutely, you're right and
                 to know that there's this kind of work going on all over and we have an
                 opportunity to help share that.


                 Ken, would you tell him about what's coming up this week.


Ken Bedell:      Sure. Ali, I hope you'll be able to come to New York University, and others
                 on the call who are from the New York City region, to join us, we're going to
                 have a group of people who have participated in the Challenge before and
                 folks who are looking towards participating again at 1:00 pm Eastern Time,
                 it's - you can - it's going to be in the Global Center for Academic and Spiritual
                 Life at New York University. And my hope is to...


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      On Friday. It's on Friday.


Ken Bedell:      This is Friday. Did I say the date yet?


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      No,


Ken Bedell:      Friday, September 28.


Ali Gheith:      It's on my calendar. I totally - yes.


Ken Bedell:      Okay. Good.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      Great. All right.


Ken Bedell:      Good.
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Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      And that's good. All right. And then you can look at the Ed
                  Partners Web site for further detail on that, anybody on the call. But we thank
                  you so much and we hope you'll continue to share and allow us to help push
                  your stories out as well.


                  And there's one other point I want to make before I see if Valarie has a closing
                  remark. It's that as we're doing the work on the campuses, what I've
                  discovered in listening to many of you talk about your work is that we're not
                  necessarily hearing the voices of some of the people who are being served.


                  And I know that can feel a little self-serving, but part of the value of
                  demonstrating the impact of the work is that the beneficiaries of some of the
                  service learnings, some of the interfaith work are given a chance to say, yes, it
                  mattered that this or that happened, yes, it mattered that the community garden
                  proceeds were distributed to our community because we didn't have fresh
                  vegetables available to us before.


                  There are - and they're - they may seem like little things, but when we add
                  them together to show that this work is touching people's lives in real and
                  personal ways, I think it does add value to the overall story of what we're
                  accomplishing by doing this work together across campuses.


                  And so, Valarie, if you would like to offer a closing...


Mary Ellen Giess: Brenda, could I just jump in with one other additional announcement? I
                  apologize. This Mary Ellen from...


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:      Yes.
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Mary Ellen Giess: ...IFYC.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:        Yes.


Mary Ellen Giess: I just wanted to say as far as finding more information, including all of the
                   links that we've shared on the call today, as well as information for the New
                   York gathering, and another place to share stories of what your campus is
                   doing, there is a President's Challenge interface, President's Interfaith and
                   Community Service Campus Challenge Facebook group. All you need to do is
                   just go onto Facebook and you can search for it. It's a closed group so that we
                   can be having conversations amongst one another about what we're up to on
                   campus.


                   So like I said, all the links are up there that we mentioned on the call today.
                   Details for the New York gathering and upcoming events are all posted there
                   regularly. So for regularly updated information, please do check out our
                   Facebook group as well. Thanks.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:        Thank you, Mary Ellen, for that reminder. And we will also push
                   the same information out to the big list, the invitation list, not to you
                   individually unless you're the person that's on that link. So as many ways as
                   possible, we'll keep sharing with you.


                   So back to you now, Valarie, for our closing remarks with just a minute before
                   our timeline is up.


Valarie Kaur:      There's just one last thing I wanted to share. In the wake of the Oak Creek
                   tragedy, in those first hours I remember being overcome with emotions of fear
                   and grief and paralysis that were quite similar to 11 years earlier after 9/11.
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And I remember there were some who called me and said, look, in 11 years
nothing has changed.


But then something had changed. My phone was ringing off the hook. I
received hundreds of letters. The community in Oak Creek received thousands
of letters. I know that many of you participated in vigils across the country.
Flags were lowered to half-staff. It was - half-mast. It was, in a hundred years
of my family's history in this country and my community's history in this
country, it was the most national attention we had ever received. It was an
unprecedented moment.


And the outpouring of love and support from all corners confirmed for me that
even despite a repeat in horrific tragedy that progress could be made, will be
made when people of many different faiths and backgrounds come together
and stand up in the face of hate and express love and support.


The question, of course, is, you know, can we do that not just in the wake of
tragedy but for the long haul in the long term. And I think that what gives me
hope is seeing that the Senate hearing room last week was not filled with just
Sikh-Americans, it was a mosaic of people. It was LGBT folks next to
African-American, Latino, Native, Asian-American, Muslim-American. It
was all of us standing together.


In the same way that Ali was just talking about how hate crimes or any civil
rights issue or any social justice issue will not be resolved if it's just one
community fighting over and against another, we'll only be able to make
progress in the country, I believe, once we realize that the Sikh-American
experience is bound up with the African-American struggle, the Latino
struggle, the Native struggle for civil right and human dignity in America.
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                 And I think there is no other space in this country where that kind of solidarity
                 can be expressed other than college campuses when kids, students are clean-
                 hearted, where they're idealistic, where they can be supported and grounded
                 by you all as their mentors and inspired by you all as Byron had inspired me.


                 And so I th- I believe in this moment whatever you can do to join up with
                 your students and engage in storytelling and service projects, especially in
                 light of the recent hate violence around the country, will have ripple effects
                 beyond measure.


                 So I thank you so much for doing what you do every day and what you will be
                 doing together in the months to come.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:     Okay. Thank you so much, Valarie, for sharing yourself today.
                 And thanks, everyone, for being on the call and we look forward to hearing
                 from you, if we haven't already, by October the 15th. Be blessed.


Valarie Kaur:    Thank you.


Brenda Girton-Mitchell:     Operator, that ends our call.


Coordinator:     And today's call has ended. Please disconnect at this time.




                                             END

								
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