Marches made 48 years ago in Selma, Ala., predate most all of the St. Ambrose University students marching in today's 1 p.m. commencement exercises at the i wireless center in Moline.
The events in Selma still matter from a "lest we forget" perspective, commencement speaker Sister Barbara Moore said earlier in the week during a phone interview from her Kirkwood, Mo., home.
"It was a profound experience, and like slavery or the Holocaust, can't be forgotten," she said. "We need to remember these events because we can't keep making the same mistakes."
Sister Moore was part of a delegation of nuns from Kansas City, Mo., to participate in one of the historic Selma protest marches in March 1965 and was prominently featured in the 2007 "Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change" PBS documentary.
Marchers sought equal voting rights and protested police brutality.
Sister Moore is a popular guest speaker from January to March, she said. The busy time generally starts with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday in January and continues through Black History Month in February and Women's Health Week in March, she said.
Yet, St. Ambrose officials thought booking her for a May graduation speech was equally wise.
"Sister Barbara's experience in Selma -- and a lifetime of advocating for health care among the poor and disenfranchised -- makes her a fitting commencement speaker as the university concludes its 'Race Matters' project series," university president Sister Joan Lescinski said. "She is a quiet, humble and brilliant woman, whose example and words will inspire our graduates to take action; to continue the important conversations about race; and to serve others in their community."
The academic-year-long "Race Matters" project focused on racial justice, as part of the university's social-justice commitment, Jane Kettering, media relations, communications and marketing office director said. The series examined "pressing dilemmas," and fostered conversations about issues, including "the idea of race as an invention that serves the ideology of states and economies worldwide," she said.
Lectures, films, concerts, artistic performances and exhibits were series' features, she said.
Several steps and changes toward racial justice have been made over the years, "but there's still a lot more that needs to be done," Sister Moore said. "Even though we have an African-American President, we are not living in a post-racial society."
She plans to tell Ambrose students about her Alabama roots and experiences, discuss current racial situations in the world and give them encouraging words, Sister Moore said.
Sister Moore was born in Birmingham, Ala., but moved to St. Louis with her family when she was 6 years old.
She's been a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Carondelet for 50 years, "grateful," she said, to have been the first African-American to enter its province, she said.
Sister Moore also was a founding member of the National Black Sisters Conference that advocates for the poor, particularly in health care.
She holds a bachelor's degree in nursing, and master of science degrees in nursing and sociology, and a doctorate in higher-education administration.
"I grew up always hearing from my family 'Get your education,' " Sister Moore said. "We also were encouraged to be vocal, be verbal, and stand up for ourselves ans stand up for justice."
Being asked to stand up and speak at St. Ambrose University's commencement exercises left her feeling "flabbergasted, honored and humbled by the opportunity."