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October 23, 2012


October 23, 2012

I am delighted to offer comments and my wholehearted endorsement for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and especially the work on curriculum about human rights defenders, Speak Truth to Power. STTP is an initiative and curriculum the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights developed in collaboration with my union, the New York State United Teachers. The curriculum introduces students from elementary to high school to the field of human rights and human rights issues. It does so through the stories of courageous women and men from around the world who defend those very rights, giving voice to the voiceless from the most remote regions of the globe to the heavily populated urban centers right here in the United States.The Speak Truth to Power lessons provide a rich curriculum aligned with rigorous common core learning standards. Parhaps most importantly, the lessons provide opportunities for students to submit their own ideas and make their own judgments about the world around them. The lessons' focus on practice encourages young minds to see how they, too, can take action and become defenders in their own right. The universality of the defenders engages students from all socio-economic backgrounds and provides examples of how people in desperate circumstances have empowered themselves and others to speak up and speak out.
This commitment to educate the next generation of human rights defenders lifts the RFKCJHR above many other worthwhile advocates by understanding and making part of its mission passing on the obligation to defend those who advocate for social justice and, yes, when necessary, speaking truth to power even in the face of tyranny and personal danger. The record demonstrates that, led by President Kerry Kennedy, the center is willing to travel to places of great danger to expose human rights violations and to defend those who speak out against oppression and the denial of basic human rights. Taking this to the next step by educating future generations is indeed a continuation of Robert F. Kennedy's understanding that educating our youth is the greatest weapon in defense of social justice. As a board member, partner and witness to its work, I know that the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is truly a gift to those who advocate for and defend justice throughout the world.

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