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Kerry Kennedy brings human rights expertise to ASU

September 19, 2010

7 p.m., Oct. 7, 2010, Katzin Music Hall

Since getting her start investigating abuses against Salvadoran refugees in 1981, internationally known human-rights advocate and author Kerry Kennedy has led more than 40 human rights delegations in countries around the globe. 

This fall, Kennedy will call upon those years of experience as she delivers the Jonathan and Maxine Marshall Distinguished Lecture at 7 p.m., Oct. 7 at Arizona State University’s Katzin Music Hall on the Tempe campus. Sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the lecture is free and open to the public. Also scheduled is a student session Q & A, from 4-5 p.m. Oct. 7 in the Memorial Union, Pima Room. 

Kennedy is the seventh child of the late Robert F. Kennedy and his widow, Ethel. Their third child, Robert Kennedy Jr., gave this distinguished lecture eight years ago at ASU. 

This year’s lecture topic, “Speak Truth to Power” echoes the title of Kerry Kennedy’s acclaimed book, “Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World,” published in 2000. The book features interviews with famous human-rights activists from anti-death penalty advocate Sister Helen Prejean and the Dalai Lama to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, as well as lesser-known stories of courage. South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela described the book as “a tribute to the human spirit” and “proof of the capacity of one person of courage to triumph over overwhelming evil.” The book was accompanied by a photographic exhibit in Washington, D.C., a theatrical presentation, a PBS television special, and education and advocacy tools distributed to 10,000 high schools and colleges. 

From child labor and indigenous land rights to ethnic violence and the environment, Kennedy’s human-rights work spans an extensive scope of issues. A women’s rights advocate, she has specifically combated domestic violence, honor killings, sexual slavery and workplace discrimination. 

Kennedy also served as executive director, and is now on the board, of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, a nonprofit organization that addresses problems of social justice. Within the organization, she directed the National Juvenile Justice Project, a comprehensive juvenile-justice reform model that helps cities rehabilitate young offenders. She also coordinated the RFK book and journalism awards, which have brought to light issues like child abuse, juvenile crime, discriminatory-banking practices and prejudice against AIDS victims, among others. In 1988, she created the RFK Center for Human Rights, which maintains long-term partnerships with human-rights activists to initiate and support sustainable social-justice movements. 

In addition to serving on numerous advisory committees, Kennedy chairs the Amnesty International Leadership Council and is a judge for the Reebok Human Rights Award. She also has worked on countless political campaigns. 

Most recently, Kennedy wrote “Being Catholic Now,” a collection of essays in which well-known Catholics, including journalist Cokie Roberts and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, discuss their faith and its significance in modern American society. 

A graduate of Brown University and Boston College Law School, Kennedy lives in New York with her three daughters. 

The Jonathan and Maxine Marshall Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 1993 with support from Jonathan Marshall (deceased) and Maxine Marshall, retired publishers of the Scottsdale Daily Progress

Past lectures have featured renowned journalists, producers, scientists, authors and historians, including Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Thomas Wicker, Lester Brown, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Arthur Caplan, Daniel Goldhagen, Martin Marty, Baruch Blumberg, Wendy Wasserstein, Paul Krugman, Seymour Hersh, Jon Meacham, Robin Wright, Calvin Trillin and Heather Rae. 

More information is available at or (480) 965-6397. Online parking maps for ASU’s Tempe campus are available at

Written by Maria Polletta ( 

Carol Hughes,
(480) 965-6375
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences