Brown University President Ruth Simmons' Address at the Newport Synagogue

A good speech by a brilliant college president:
I extend my heartfelt gratitude for the invitation to be present at this historic site on the occasion of the 60th reading of the letter of President George Washington “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport.” My gratitude derives from the fact that today’s ceremony is the culmination of a period of study and reflection. The opportunity this summer to visit holy sites in Israel for the first time was a satisfying and stimulating dimension of this summer of reflection. Today’s event is yet another station in a phenomenal personal journey through history’s lessons. That journey began in my youth. Many of you know that the Jewish Diaspora is a prominent theme and reference point in African American Southern Baptist practice. Our songs, rituals and imagery are filled with the inspiring story of the flight from Egypt, the struggle for freedom from bondage, and the making of a community in exile. As a child, experiencing first-hand the strictures of segregation and discrimination in the South, I was enthralled and inspired by the example of wise and just Biblical elders who, through love, faith and a genuine concern for the plight of others, “made a way somehow.” I feel very much that the tenets that inspired the founding of this institution reached out and made a way for me.

Read the original letters....

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