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Robinson Says Global Human Rights Begin Close to Home

Dr Shearer and Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and a world leader for the cause of human rights, receives a Transylvania honorary degree from President Charles L. Shearer. It was the first time in recent history that the University has awarded an honorary degree outside of commencement.

Mary Robinson, a world leader for the cause of human rights, quoted from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to set the cornerstone for her October 2 Kenan Lecture:

“Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his or her personality is possible.” Robinson was introduced by Student Government Association president, senior Sarah Billiter, as “one of the most influential female world leaders.”

She was the first woman president of Ireland (1990-97) and is currently president of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and chair of the Council of Women World Leaders.

She was formerly United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights.

Throughout her lecture, Robinson referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was drafted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, as a common standard of achievement for all people and nations.

“The world did adopt a common declaration of values,” she said. “Every country has agreed. Implementation is a different matter.”

This century, Robinson said, began well for human rights. In September 2000, the United Nations met to discuss the Millennium Declaration, nine objectives toward the globalization of human rights and a reaffirmation of faith in the organization and its goal of a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world.

Soon after, however, the world’s attention was diverted by the September 11, 2001, terrorists attacks on the United States, and a focus was placed on security.

“9-11 was an appalling trauma for this country, and a dark time for the whole world,” Robinson said. “Those responsible for these acts are guilty of crimes against humanity.”

She noted, however, that the “war on terror” has been a setback for human rights and stressed the importance of restoring the state of global human rights to where it was before September 11, 2001.

Immediately preceding her address, Transylvania awarded Robinson an honorary doctor of humane letters degree in recognition of her advocacy of human rights and pioneering role as a woman in the forefront of world leadership.

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