by Robert Stockman
In early June, a remarkable conference was held at Stanford University celebrating ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to that campus in October 1912. It was sponsored by the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies, which is based on the Stanford campus and supports courses, lectures, and publications about the Persian language and Iranian culture.
“‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Stanford: A Centennial Conference” was attended by nearly 300 people, including three members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States. People began to arrive as early as 7:30 a.m. on Sunday morning to be sure they could get in. It was opened by Dr. Abbas Milani, Director of the Iranian Studies Program, who spoke about the unjust persecution of Iran’s Bahá’í community and the failure of the world to support the freedom of Iran’s women. Following his address, Dr. C. Ryan Perkins spoke about “The Bahá’í Archives at Stanford” because the university is systematically collecting Bahá’í books and other materials in its library. The short film “‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey Across America” by Hamid Mozaffari was shown to provide context for the program.
There were two panels of 90 minutes each, with a break for discussion and refreshments in between. The first panel, moderated by Dr. Natalie Jean Marine-Street, began with a presentation by Shane Tedjarati and Abbas Milani on “‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Stanford: An Archival Inquiry.” Two presentations followed; Negar Mottahedeh about “‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey West: The Course of Human Solidarity” and Robert H. Stockman about “‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Universities in the US and Europe.”
The second panel was moderated by Dr. Kioumars Ghereghlou and also had three presentations: Mina Yazdani about “Reflections on “‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Views on Reform in Persia”; Dominic Parviz Brookshaw on “To Train Mothers and to Promote Eloquence: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Education of Women and Girls in Iran”; and Richard W. Thomas, who spoke via Zoom about “‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Pioneer in Anti-racism, Racial Unity, and Cultural Diversity.” After each panel, the audience asked numerous questions. A sumptuous lunch for the speakers, organizers, and key attendees brought closure to the well organized event and discussion about its great success. The entire program is now available on YouTube (see below).