2018 Mees Visiting Scholar: Irshad Manji


Irshad Manji will visit Lawrence Academy as this year’s J. William Mees Visiting Scholar.

“The first time I talked to her on the phone, I immediately contacted [Head of School] Dan Scheibe and [Assistant Head of School] Libby Margraf and asked about bringing Ms. Manji here,” recalled Associate Head of School Rob Moore. “She’s unbelievable!”

An internationally bestselling author, educator, and the founder of the Moral Courage Project, Irshad Manji has dedicated herself “to help people live with integrity and wholeness, especially those who feel limited by culture, religion, or society.”

This mission, she has said, is “a life-long journey.”

Established in 2010, the J. William Mees Visiting Scholar Program was founded “to raise the intellectual awareness and level of the whole community by bringing a visiting scholar who could be a role model to our students, and to our faculty.”

“It’s the idea that somebody comes in who we can learn from: how do they do their work, how are they passionate about their work, how are they successful?” said Mr. Moore.

Past visiting scholars have included author Andre Debus III, poet Taylor Mali, singer/songwriter Dar Williams, mathematicians Adam Boucher and Tim Fukawa-Connelly, playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, science professor Dr. Peter Groffman, and Cold War specialist Francis Gary Powers Jr.

“All of them [have] incredible intellect, passion, success; but success because they’re doing what they love,” Mr. Moore explained. “I think that’s what we’re trying to role-model for the kids.”

Irshad’s work approaches moral courage as not only a virtue and attribute but also as a skill one can develop and use to take action for the greater good; it means “doing the right thing in the face of your fears.”

At the University of Southern California, Ms. Manji teaches moral courage as a leadership practice that applies to everyone, from students to executives.

Speaking of The Moral Courage Project, Mr. Moore said, “It’s about decision-making, it’s about leadership, it’s about taking responsibility for yourself, and empathy.It ties into the attributes work we’re doing at Lawrence right now.”

“It all ties into the work we’re doing at LA right now.”

A dynamic and personable speaker whose energy is at once infectious and inspiring, Majic was selected by The World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and received the Tom Lantos Award for Human Rights and Justice.

She is the author of the 2004 international bestseller The Trouble with Islam Today, the director of the Emmy-nominated PBS film Faith Without Fear, and in 2011 published Allah, Liberty & Love, “which shows how Islam can be modernized for our time, the most pluralistic in human history.”  She is also the winner of Oprah’s first annual award for “nerve, conviction, and boldness.”

Ms. Manji will be Lawrence Academy’s resident scholar from February 4 – 6, 2018. She will meet with students in language classes, work with members of the community on issues of diversity and identity, and make a presentation to the community at large on Monday, February 5 in the Richardson-Mees Performing Arts Center (RMPAC).

To learn more about The Moral Courage Project and Irshad, visit the website.