Rainn Wilson stepped out of his popular “The Office” character Dwight Schrute at Lisner Auditorium on Sunday afternoon to promote a legal advocacy group for women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence or discrimination.
Around 600 to 700 tickets were sold to members of the GW community and the general public for the Alumni Weekend event, which raised money for the Tahirih Justice Center.
“I’m here to let you know about the work of the Tahirih Justice Center that has really opened my eyes about the plight of so many women around the globe,” Wilson said of the Virginia-based organization.
In his talk, Wilson referenced his Baha’i faith and his search for a way to give back to the world as a result of his fame.
Wilson shared with the audience a Baha’i proverb: “The best beloved of all things in my sight is justice.” Wilson said he sees this proverb at the core of the Tahirih Justice Center’s work.
“When you actually hear the personal stories I was absolutely floored to hear women tearfully speak of rape, abduction, genital mutilation, forced marriages,” Wilson said of the crimes abroad. “The idea that the U.S. could somehow have laws against being a safe haven for women escaping these injustices is ludicrous.”
Wilson took a variety of questions from the audience ranging from “What is your favorite type of cheese?” to speculations on the romantic involvements of Dwight Schrute, his character in “The Office,” which Wilson said “will continue to be interesting.”
Layli Miller-Muro, founder and current director of the center, shared with the audience the story her work with the nation’s first gender-mutilation case of asylum. She spoke of the positive results of the Tahirih Justice Center.
“The Tahirih Justice Center is far beyond me, far beyond anything I could have imagined,” Miller-Muro said of the center’s impact.
Phi Alpha Delta, the pre-law fraternity, was responsible for bringing Wilson to campus.
“We decided that this would be a great way to make a big splash on campus the first month of school as well as work toward our philanthropic and community service goals,” Phi Alpha Delta President Fahad Juneja wrote in an e-mail.
Most attendees said they were fans of Wilson’s work in “The Office.”
“We love the show and we have been watching it for years,” said Debbie Wheeler-Kinch, a 1984 graduate of GW. She said she often watches the show with her husband and her son.
One student said he was somewhat disappointed that the tone of the event was not totally comedic.
“I thought it was going to be more of a comedy thing, but it was still good he came here to do a charity event,” freshman Brian Romanowski said.
Some students were surprised by the actor’s level of involvement with the local charity.
Freshman Michelle Rattinger said, “He impressed me with how much he really cared about the work of the Tahirih Justice Center.”