Human rights activist Kerry Kennedy Cuomo will deliver the annual Washington University Women’s Society Adele Starbird Lecture for the Assembly Series at 11 a.m. April 9 in Graham Chapel.
Kennedy Cuomo’s work in the field of human rights began in 1981, when she initiated an investigation into alleged abuse of refugees from El Salvador by U.S. immigration officials. Since then, she has been devoted to the promotion and protection of basic rights, covering such legal and social justice issues as freedom of expression, child labor, indigenous land rights, judicial independence, ethnic violence and women’s rights.
In the past 20 years, Kennedy Cuomo has led more than three-dozen human rights delegations to more than 20 countries.
In 1988, in honor of her father, she founded the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Memorial Center for Human Rights, created to protect rights outlined in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The center provides support and resources for human rights defenders and investigates and uncovers violations, such as torture or disappearances.
The center also encourages the U.S. government to spotlight human rights in foreign and domestic policies, striving to make a difference in the international arena.
Kennedy Cuomo directs the center’s programs for the RFK Journalism and RFK Book awards, recognized by many as the “poor people’s Pulitzers,” which spotlight individuals who are active in human rights awareness.
Her enduring dedication to human rights has led to her involvement in related organizations. She directed the National Juvenile Justice Project, committed to developing less costly, more effective programs within the penal system to deal with offending minors.
In addition, Kennedy Cuomo chairs the Amnesty International Leadership Council and serves as a jurist for the Reebok Human Rights Award. She has served on many governing boards related to human rights issues, including the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights and the Bloody Sunday Trust, and on many advisory committees and political campaigns.
Her book, Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World, contains interviews from a multitude of human rights activists from around the world, including the Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel and Desmond Tutu. It has created a host of spinoffs, including a theatrical production and a television program, and is now distributed as an educational tool to many high schools and colleges.
Kennedy Cuomo is a member of the Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., bars.
Assembly Series lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, call 935-5285 or visit the series Web site, wupa.wustl.edu/assembly.