Speaking Truth to Power

Published: November 6, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
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Kerry Kennedy has an intense passion for social justice.

For 28 years, Kennedy has devoted herself to the issue of human rights.  Her commitment has led her to travel to South Korea, Northern Ireland, Kenya, Haiti, Gaza and El Salvador.  Her dedication has led her to become involved in causes in Pakistan, India, Indonesia, China and Sudan.

“The only way to create change,” Kennedy says, “is to become angry enough to speak out when you see injustice.”

The daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy established the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in 1988 and is the chair of the Amnesty International Leadership Council.

Last night, I had the opportunity to listen to Kennedy speak to an audience of students, teachers and local citizens about her work and the passion that led to her latest book, Speak Truth to Power:  Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World.  The book features interviews with activists such as Marian Wright Edelman, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Elie Wiesel.

However, the book has grown into a global educational movement for awareness and action.  Each year, Kennedy travels the country and the world speaking, educating and motivating individuals to take a stand for human rights.

“In a world where there is a common lament that there are no more heroes,” Kennedy says, “too often cynicism and despair are perceived as evidence of the death of moral courage.  That perception is wrong.  People of great valor and heart, committed to a noble purpose, with long records of personal sacrifice, walk among us in every country of the world.”

Sharing her life’s work through her own story and the stories of others reinforces in me and others the idea and ideal put forth by anthropologist Margaret Mead.

“Never doubt,” Mead once said, “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


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