Azar Nafisi Inspires at 2016 Eckler Lecture

September 22, 2016

ALLIANCE, Ohio - On Tuesday, September 20, Azar Nafisi, a national bestselling author and professor of aesthetics culture and literature presented at the annual Eckler Lecture in the Brush Performance Hall of the Giese Center for the Performing Arts. 

The presentation was opened by Mount Union President Dr. W. Richard Merriman who gave a brief history of the Eckler Lecture Series. The lecture was established in 1981 through an endowment given by Mr. John A. and Mrs. Dorothy (Nelson ’29) Cummins in appreciation of the many years of service to the community and Mount Union by the Ecklers. Dr. Eric A. and Mrs. Mary Eckler were long-time faculty members in the Department of Education at the institution. Dr. Merriman then welcomed sophomore Lexi to the podium who gave an overview on Nafisi and her accomplishments.

Nafisi started off her presentation by discussing how the arts and literature allow us to enter a third space that transcends time, gender, race, and religion. She continued that, by entering this third space, we can enter a world that expands our creativity and challenges us to think more outside the box. Nafisi then challenged democracy by stating, “How can democracy survive without creative imagination?” If we wish to continue and have a vision for ourselves, we need to take risks; that’s how we grow.

Since Nafisi’s time in the United States, she has made two commitments to herself. The first being she had to define herself as an American. If she didn’t define herself, someone else would, which could drastically change her life. She asked how could someone, who barely knows her, define who and what she is? Secondly, her love for the United States made her see flaws within it, but instead of complaining about the flaws, she would make a change.

Nafisi also touched on how the humanities have fallen into danger in our culture. She began to talk about how we as U.S. citizens have rights to a free quality education, but that those in poorer school distracts don’t necessarily receive this level of quality. With programs such as arts, music and literature almost gone due to budget cuts, Nafisi asked, how would they know their rights or what’s in the constitution without these teachings?

In her conclusion, Nafisi showed pictures of herself and friends graduating from school in the early 1990s and described what they had to endure to get to where they are today. She then had a picture of a mother and described her trials and hardships and the ways in which she fought for the rights of women in Iran. She showed pictures of the Iranian social movement, My Stealthy Freedom, which fights for the rights for Iranian women to decide when and if they want to wear their hijab. She ended with a YouTube video showing Iranian men and women dancing to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams with and without hijabs. She then explained that several hours later, they were arrested and put in jail for disobeying their government.

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