The Elimination of Prejudice
Mission: The Elimination of Prejudice (EOP) movement creates long-lasting community change by addressing the underlying differences between people. Our mission is to set the conditions for sensitive societal conversations to take place. By setting the conditions for people to talk about sensitive issues, the EOP advocates a better understanding between people.
The Story: What Do A College Fraternity, Rodgers and Hammerstein, the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, And The Elimination Of Prejudice Have in Common?
The origins of Elimination of Prejudice transcend many generations, however, it's mission remains just as relevant today as in its early years. In 1895, three Yale University students founded the first fraternal order open to all men without regard to race, religion or creed. In that historic moment, not only was Pi Lambda Phi International Fraternity born, but a movement dedicated to advocating a better understanding between people began. Since it's inception, the movement has helped more than 46,000 members develop an appreciation for participating in, and building, inclusive environments where people with varied perspectives, skills and experiences collaborate.
The EOP's inspiration can be witnessed by reading The Creed of Pi Lambda Phi;
That all men are created free and equal.
That no society of men can flourish unless the members of that society are endowed with the opportunities and privileges of freedom.
That freedom implies the elimination of prejudice.
That the elimination of prejudice means a better understanding 'twixt men.
That it is incumbent upon me to fight for such freedom, even with my life.
That it is incumbent upon me, in my personal life, to be devoted to the highest standards or honesty and justice.
That because my country is dedicated to the highest standards of freedom and justice for all men of all creeds, I hereby pledge my allegiance to my country and to its national symbol.
From its humble beginnings, the organization believed it was important to recognize non-member individuals dedicated to the timeless principals of non-sectarianism, tolerance and equality. Pi Lambda Phi was the first fraternal organization to present a gold medal humanitarian award to individuals who "gained worldwide recognition as an exponent of true humanitarianism and brotherhood."
Individual members also helped shape the EOP. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II are notable examples. They wrote the music and lyrics to the 1949 Broadway Musical South Pacific that shook New York. The musical draws from James Michener's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book Tales of the South Pacific. It weaves together characters and elements from several of its stories into a single plot line about an American nurse at a U.S. Naval base, during World War II, who falls in love with an expatriate French plantation owner with a dark past. The issue of racial prejudice is sensitively and candidly explored in several plot threads, including the struggle of the lead character to accept the mixed-race children of her lover.
In addition, the EOP movement has been a trail blazer for diversity and inclusion while being impacted by events in society. Colligate examples include;
- In 1955, Rafer Johnson (UCLA) joined Pi Lambda Phi and became the first African-American to join a recognized North-American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) fraternity.
- After the Korean War, students from North and South Korea joined the Pi Lambda Phi chapter at Indiana State University.
- In 1969, David Temple joined Pi Lambda Phi and became the first African-American to join a recognized NIC fraternity on the University of Virginia campus.
As the fraternity and its members dedicated themselves to advocating for a better understanding between people and events in society focused their attention, the EOP movement became more tangible. But it wasn't until Jules Lennard formally established "The Elimination of Prejudice" in 1996 that the movement had an official name. Lennard was a trail blazer a staunch advocate for people dealing with discrimination. Lennard's story began many years earlier with his Olympic dreams. After joining Pi Lambda Phi's University of Wisconsin chapter in 1934, Lennard was selected for the 1936 US Olympic Soccer team. Lennard was excitedly on his way to the Olympic games when the United States Olympic Committee informed him they could not guarantee his safety due to his Jewish heritage. Lennard would, therefore, not be permitted to leave the ship. At that time, Germany was ruled by Adolf Hitler's Nazi party and their intentions were to showcase Aryan ideals and prowess. Lennard's lifelong dreams of representing the United States in the Olympics were ultimately prevented by Anti-Semitism.
Despite this set back, Lennard closely followed fellow Olympian Jesse Owens' experience. Owens was an African-American track and field athlete representing the United States. He achieved international fame by winning four gold medals during the Berlin Olympics. In fact, Owens was the most successful athlete at the 1936 Summer Olympics, a poignant rebuke to Adolf Hitler. Lennard's Olympic experience had a lasting impact. He returned home committed to advocate a better understanding between people and determined to confront discrimination and segregation head on.
Lennard became one of the all-time most decorated members of Pi Lambda Phi. He served as International Executive Council President and Educational Foundation President. Lennard was awarded the fraternity's lifetime achievement award and practically every designation for upholding the high ideals of the fraternity. Lennard devoted his life ending discrimination. In his honor, the fraternity created the Jules Lennard Human Relations Award to recognize organizations and individuals who make a difference towards building bridges and connecting people through their similarities. Jules Lennard served as a role model for how we should encourage people to talk about sensitive societal issues. To this day, the benchmark for exemplary leadership within Pi Lambda Phi is Jules Lennard.
Lennard launched the Elimination of Prejudice six years before his death in 2002. The original program was an essay contest for non-members to think deeply about prejudice and challenge themselves by responding to one statement, "What eliminating prejudice means to me." The annual contest started at the University of Wisconsin (1996) and spread to other campuses; including the University of Michigan and North Carolina State University. Lennard believed that by setting the conditions for people to talk about sensitive issues, we advocate a better understanding between people. By being a fierce advocate for equality, Lennard paved the way for an international movement; officially called "The Elimination of Prejudice." In 2010, the EOP was re-launched as an international philanthropy. In memory of Jules Lennard, "religious tolerance" was selected as the inaugural theme. In August 2011, the 1st Elimination of Prejudice Video Contest winner was decided by public vote. Contestants from four continents submitted videos. Elizabeth Smurlick (Canada) won the $5,000 grand prize with her winning video "Eliminate Prejudice: Life". "Bullying" was selected as the 2012-13 annual theme. The 3rd annual video contest is scheduled to launch February 4, 2013 and end April 16, 2013.
To continue setting the conditions for sensitive societal conversations to take place, the 1st Annual International Elimination of Prejudice Day was held February 8th, 2012. Students on twenty college campuses and universities across the U.S. and Canada organized panel discussions and other educational events. Companion student organizations (religious, political, racially, etc.) co-hosted the events. College adminstration, faculty and staff, including the Director of Diversity Affairs, attended and actively participated as facilitators and panelists. International Elimination of Prejudice Day panel discussions offered a forum where a diverse collection of people with varied perspectives, skills, and experiences coukd encounter and challenge important ideas. The International Elimination of Prejudice Day continues a long and renowned tradition of passionately exploring major societal issues. After a successful inaugural year, in 2013, International Elimination of Prejudice Day was changed to International Elimination of Prejudice Week, which will be held annually the first full week of February. In keeping with EOP's firm belief in the free expression of all ideas and the benefits of an open exchange these discussions will be non-partisan. EOP will not take positions on issues they will simply set the stage for dialogue.
Today, the EOP movement is active on 40 college campuses and universities across the U.S. and Canada with support from nearly 1,000 students and volunteers. Although EOP has grown and changed with the times, the mission remains the same. It continues to serve as a tribute to people of all walks of life who advocate a better understanding between people. It is equally tangible and current today as it was when it was founded. It still fosters the timeless principals to inform, educate and inspire people from diverse backgrounds by presenting programs and providing opportunities for dialogue. EOP has evolved to include the modern enhancements of internet and social media as means to increase discussion of sensitive topics. From video and essay contests, youth-based educational programs and retreats to the fundraising activities that support these endeavors, the ways to encourage people to talk about sensitive topics are endless. By providing varied platforms the EOP continues to move toward their dream: the elimination of prejudice.
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