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International Student Leadership Conference

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ISLC 2018

Theme: Where Lines Are Drawn

 

Keynote Speaker: Megan Phelps-Roper

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised within the virulent religious group The Westboro Baptist Church: known for picketing against the LGBT community, funeral services for soldiers, and nearly every other religious faith. By 2009, she was running the church’s Twitter account (as granddaughter of Fred Phelps, church founder, and daughter of Shirley Phelps-Roper, former church spokesperson, Megan played a central role in spreading its signature brand of hateful rhetoric to a global audience). However, after interacting with calm, civil, and genuinely empathetic individuals online—including one user who would eventually become her husband—Phelps-Roper began to question the dogmatic assertions of her faith and its celebrations of human tragedy. In 2012, she and her sister made the incredibly brave (and rare) decision to abandon their cloistered way of life, leave their family and home, and renounce their teachings.

Since then, Phelps-Roper has championed the power of empathetic dialogue to change minds and connect with those we may disagree with. In her TED Talk—now with nearly 8 million views online—she shares how understanding and compassion can transform lives, even across the widest of ideological gulfs. Her inspiring, moving, and deeply human story of change is also the subject of an upcoming memoir, called This Above All, to be released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Already, it’s set to be transformed into a major feature film—directed by Marc Webb, scripted by Nick Hornby, and produced by Reese Witherspoon. Recently, she’s appeared on Sarah Silverman’s Hulu series, I Love You, America, and on the National Geographic series The Story of Us, with Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman.

As a keynote speaker and educator, she engages with schools, faith groups, law enforcement, and anti-extremism organizations on strengthening human bonds through better public discourse. She has been covered, most significantly, by The New Yorker, The Guardian, VICE, The Globe and Mail, NPR, and other international organizations.

[Information from the Lavin Agency]

 

Moderator

Salorne McDonald has agreed to serve as advisor to the ISLC Committee, and as the moderator of the Conference. Many remember Salorne as the 2006 keynote speaker from Trinidad and Tobago who was kind enough to return in 2007 to lead Friday night activities and a workshop, and continues to join us! With Salorne acting as advisor and moderator, we anticipate increased conference cohesion and energy.

Salorne was born in the rural eastern part of the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. During his formative years Salorne was involved in youth clubs, debating competitions, and school student councils, which provided rich training for his current work, and helped to develop his gift of gab. Ardent work with the youth of his own nation and others around the world has given him an uncommon understanding of the life and development issues that young people face globally. Becoming involved in HIV and AIDS peer education sparked a special passion with Salorne, whose current position is the Regional Behavior Change Communication Manager with PSI/SFH in Trinidad. Salorne also works with the local YMCA and Trinidad Youth Council, providing education and leadership training to youth in his nation and abroad. A specialist in working with particularly vulnerable populations, he continues to aid in policy development as well as project planning and execution.