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Lecturers Bring a Spectrum of Perspectives to Ambrose

May 2010

The crowd that packed the Rogalski Center last August had come to hear a story many would prefer never having to be told. French Catholic priest and author Rev. Patrick Desbois shared the horror of the mobile Nazi killing squads that traveled across Eastern Europe in the 1940s, executing an estimated 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews.

Desbois is just one of many high-caliber speakers who visited campus to deliver lectures, teach a class or converse with students this past academic year. They addressed hot-button topics–from immigration to the Catholic African American experience and more–that provided much food for thought both in and out of Ambrose's classrooms and within the greater Quad Cities community.

Desbois, who advises the Vatican on Jewish relations, related one of the lesser-known chapters of the Holocaust, which was uncovered using forensic evidence, eyewitness accounts and new archival material.
"It was a moving and powerful accounting," says Allan Ross, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities, a partner in the effort to bring the international figure to the Ambrose campus. "Revealing the truth is a way to honor those who were killed and help bring about a future of peace and hope."

Another lecturer brought his listeners back across the globe to small-town Iowa. Author Stephen Bloom visited campus in March, nearly two years after the raid on the Agriprocessors meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa.
Bloom's 2000 book, "Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America," chronicles the demographic, financial, and cultural changes in this Midwestern town after Chassidic Jews established the world's largest glatt-kosher slaughterhouse. He provided the Ambrose audience with an updated perspective on the fallout for Postville from the discovery of "Iowa's worst-kept secret"-the hiring of hundreds of illegal workers.

As with many of this year's lecturers, Bloom said we must ask the tough questions, answer with bold statements, and welcome insights formerly hidden by fear of the unknown. Despite the contentiousness he faced in the wake of his book, he has continued his pursuit of the truth.

"My job as a journalist is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted," he says.

–J. Kettering and R. Youngblood


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