News Archive

Buck winner urges audience to hold governments accountable

11/22/2003 4:49:32 PM


LYNCHBURG, Va. — Accepting Randolph-Macon Woman's College's Pearl S. Buck Award before an audience that included Janice Walsh, the daughter of the Nobel Prize winner for whom the award is named, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson urged audience members to examine issues of human rights as more than "fuzzy words."

"For me, the international framework of human rights has a very precise meaning," Robinson said, "a meaning that is informed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the United Nations in 1948, and we must hold our governments accountable to what they have promised to do."

Referring directly to Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Robinson reminded the audience of the clear connection between one's duties to the community and the free and full development one's own personality. "Begin by asking the right question -- what can I do?," she urged listeners. "Then simply work outward from the local to your region, from your region to your state, then on to your country, and, ultimately, the world."

Robinson, who also served as president of Ireland, was the fourth winner of the award, which recognizes women whose lives and achievements reflect Buck's commitment to human dignity and understanding. Previous Buck Award winners include woman's rights and peace advocate Jehan Sadat, former Philippine President Corazon C. Aquino, and Sheikh Hasina, former Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Today she serves as director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, a new venture she formed in partnership with the Aspen Institute, the International Council on Human Rights Policy, and the State of the World Forum. Based in New York, EGI's goal is to advance human rights around the world, in part by making recommendations for integrating those rights into the legal systems of nations worldwide.

In her opening remarks, R-MWC President Kathleen Gill Bowman hailed Buck, R-MWC's most notable alumna, as a woman who was decades ahead of her time, and shared her belief that the world and its citizens have yet to see or feel the true and lasting impact of the this year's winner.

Pearl S. Buck, for whom the award is named, graduated from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in 1914. The first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, she was also a tireless champion of human rights. She founded Welcome House, an international adoption agency that later merged with the Pearl S. Buck Foundation to help needy children around the world. Her books, most notably "The Good Earth," helped promote understanding of Chinese culture in the United States.

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations