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Kerry Kennedy to speak at West campus

April 11, 2010

Kerry Kennedy, a noted international human rights activist and writer, will appear at Arizona State University’s West campus on April 15 to address “Human Rights Defenders Changing Our World.”

The event will be hosted in La Sala B/C in the University Center Building (UCB) at 6 p.m.

Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy and founder of the RFK Center for Human Rights, has been involved in human rights issues since 1981 when she investigated abuses committed by U.S. immigration officials against refugees from El Salvador. She is the author of “Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World,” a collection of interviews with such newsmakers as Nobel Prize laureates the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Weisel, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Rigoberta Menhcú Tum, José Ramos-Horta and Bobby Muller, as well as internationally celebrated activists such as Vaclav Havel, Baltasar Garzón, Helen Prejean and Marian Wright Edelman. 

The book spawned the creation of Speak Truth, a global education initiative to fight for international human rights; a play by Chilean poet and Broadway playwright Ariel Dorfman that has been produced in nine countries and five languages; a photographic exhibition by Pulitzer Prize-winner Eddie Adams; and federal legislation that increased federal funding for the protection of human rights.

“This event is important because it spreads awareness about critical human rights issues, and the message is delivered by a renowned leader who has worked on diverse human rights issues and led human rights delegations across the globe,” said Noelle Beydoun, a junior majoring in political science in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “Human rights is a universal cause that each and every person should aspire to advance.”

A graduate of Brown University and Boston College Law School, Kennedy established the RFK Center for Human Rights in 1987 to ensure the protection of rights codified under the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. She has served as its executive director and is on the board of directors of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, a nonprofit organization that addresses social justice issues.

“It is an honor to have Kerry Kennedy visit the West campus to talk about human rights,” said Beydoun, who hopes to pursue a master’s degree in international relations or public policy following her graduation in December. “This is an opportunity to learn about human rights from an outstanding speaker and to learn how you can become a human rights defender on campus and in the community.

“This is an event that will inspire activism in students, faculty, staff and community members in their daily lives, so that we can continue the pursuit of social justice and human rights.”

An informal Q & A period and meet-and-greet with Kennedy will follow her presentation. Kennedy will also sign copies of her book, which will be available for purchase.

The event is hosted by the Social Justice and Human Rights Graduate Student Association at the West campus, Global Politics Students, Amnesty International, Community Outreach and Advocacy for Refugees, and the Arizona Anti-Slavery Coalition.

For information or to RSVP, e-mail

ASU’s West campus is located at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.