Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World

Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World

by Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, Eddie Adams

Hardcover(1 ED)

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Speak Truth to Power presents an inspiring rainbow of heroes from more than thirty-five countries and five continents. In searing and uplifting interviews, veteran human rights defender Kerry Kennedy Cuomo examines the quality of courage with women and men who are dramatically changing the course of events in their communities and countries.

Imprisoned, tortured, and threatened with death, they speak with compelling eloquence on subjects to which they have devoted their lives and for which they have been willing to sacrifice -- from free expression to the rule of law, from women's rights to religious liberty, from environmental defense to eradicating slavery, from access to capitol to the right to due process.

Accompanying the interviews are a powerful series of portraits by world-renowned photographer Eddie Adams. This is his first book, representing two years of crisscrossing the globe to make these deeply felt and insightful images of courageous individuals, including the internationally celebrated, such as Vaclav Havel, Baltasar Garzón, Helen Prejean, Marian Wright Edelman, and Nobel Prize Laureates the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, José Ramos-Horta, and Bobby Muller. But the vast majority of the defenders are unknown and (as yet) unsung beyond their national boundaries, such as former sex slave and leading abolitionist Juliana Dogbadzi of Ghana, domestic violence activist Marina Pisklakova of Russia, mental disability rights advocate Gabor Gombos of Hungary, and more than thirty others.

Speak Truth to Power is accompanied by a major exhibition opening at The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., then traveling nationally, beginning in January 2001 at the Newseum, New York. The authors also plan a fully integrated Web Site as well as an education and advocacy campaign by Amnesty International.

In addition, a theatrical presentation, written by Ariel Dorfman, based on the stories featured in the book, will be performed by internationally known actors, including Glenn Close, Edward James Olmos, Sigourney Weaver, Alfre Woodard, and others, opening at the J. F. Kennedy Center, September 19, 2000.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812930627
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/19/2000
Edition description: 1 ED
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 11.32(w) x 11.29(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo is the mother of three girls, Cara, Mariah, and Michaela. She started working in human rights in 1981; since then, her life has been devoted to the establishment of equal justice. She has led more than forty human rights delegations to more than thirty countries. Kennedy Cuomo established the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in 1987 to ensure the protection of rights codified under the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. She has worked on diverse human rights issues such as child labor, disappearances, indigenous land rights, judicial independence, freedom of expression, ethnic violence, the environment, and women's rights. Ms. Kennedy Cuomo serves as Chair of the Amnesty International Leadership Council and serves on boards or advisory committees for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, The Bloody Sunday Trust, the Robert F Kennedy Memorial, the Gleitsman Foundation, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Committee on the Administration of justice (Northern Ireland), and the International Campaign for Tibet among others. She is a member of the Massachusetts and District of Columbia bars.

Eddie Adams, winner of the 1969 Pulitzer Prize and recipient of more than 500 international, national, and local awards, is one of the most decorated and published photographers in America today. Adams's photographs have been seen on the covers and front pages of international publications including Time, Newsweek,New York Times, Stern, Paris Match, Parade, Vanity Fair, Life, and London Sunday Times. His portraits include leaders world wide from presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush, Reagan, and Clinton to more than fifty heads of states, including Fidel Castro, François Mitterand, the Shah of Iran, Indira Gandhi, King Hussein of Jordan, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Yitzhak Rabin, Pope John Paul, and Deng Xiao-Ping of China. But Adams's earliest pictures, and those for which he is canonized in photographic history, stem from his coverage of the ravages of thirteen wars. In Vietnam he went on more than 150 operations. In 1968 he photographed the indelible picture of the Saigon police chief shooting a Vietcong prisoner at point-blank range, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. In 1977 his photographs of the boat people escaping Vietnam contributed to Congress's decision to admit 200,000 Vietnamese to America.

Read an Excerpt

Vaclav Havel, Czech Republic

Vaclav Havel is one of democracy’s most principled voices. Armed with a moral compass that points true north, and an eloquence unsurpassed in the political arena, Havel speaks with the honesty of a dissident from the halls of the presidential palace in Prague. Czechoslovakia’s leading playwright and a perennial victim of state repression under Communist rule, he is celebrated for his absurdist plays including The Garden Party, The Increased Difficulty of Concentration, The Memorandum, Largo Desolato, and Temptation. Havel, who was born in 1936, was a founder of Charter 77, a human rights and democracy organization that challenged the Soviet takeover. He wrote compelling texts on repression and dissent, and his 1978 work, The Power of the Powerless, is one of the best political essays ever written. In 1979, in retaliation for his human rights activism, Havel was sentenced to four and a half years at hard labor, during which he wrote Letters to Olga. As chief spokesperson of Civic Forum, which he cofounded in 1989, Havel’s leadership, political savvy, and moral persuasion helped bring Communism to its knees, and enabled him to negotiate a peaceful transition to democracy. Out of the ashes of Soviet control emerged a new state, based on free expression, political participation, civil society, and commitment to the rule of law. In 1989, Havel was elected the first non-Communist president of Czechoslovakia in over forty years.

On Leadership and Courage

The crisis of authority is one of the causes for all the atrocities that we are seeing in the world today. The post-Communist world presented a chance for new moral leaders, because at that time of transition in these countries there were no professional or career politicians. This gave intellectuals an opportunity to enter into politics, and, by entering, to introduce a new spirit into the political process. But gradually people were suppressed—the mill ground them down—and much of that opportunity was lost. There are certain leaders that one can respect, and I do certainly respect, leaders like the Dalai Lama. I appreciate the fact that, although very often they have no hope, not even a glimpse of success on the horizon, they are still ready to sacrifice their lives, to sacrifice their freedom. They are ready to assume responsibility for the world, or at least for the part of the world they live in. I have always respected these people and appreciated what they do. Courage in the public sphere means that one is to go against majority opinion (at the same time risking losing one’s position) in the name of the truth. And I have always strongly admired historic personalities who have been capable of doing exactly this.

Becoming a dissident is not something that happens overnight. You do not simply decide to become one. It is a long chain of steps and acts. And very often during this process, you do not really reflect upon what is happening. You just know that you want to avoid any debt that would put a stain on your life. You don’t want to become involved with the dirt that is around you and one day, all of a sudden you wake up and realize that you are a dissident, that you are a human rights activist. With me the story was rather similar. It was only much later, while I was in prison, that I started reflecting on the process and why I had done what I had done. There must be some, call it "transcendental," source of energy that helps you overcome all these sacrifices. Now some people may disagree with this idea of a transcendental source, but I feel it. While I was in prison, I often thought about why a man decides to remain decent, a man of integrity, even in situations when he or she is on his own, when nobody knows your actions and thoughts—except you yourself. Even in these situations, a man can feel bad, can have a bad conscience, can feel remorse. Why is this? How is it possible? And my answer to this is that there must be another eye looking on—that it’s not just the people surrounding you that make the difference. I have no evidence of the existence of such an eye, but am drawing on the archetypal certainty of such an existence.

On Fear

I have experienced, and still experience, a whole spectrum of fears. Some of my fears have had greater intensity than the fears of the others. But my efforts to overcome these fears have also been perhaps more intense. The major fear is imagining I might fail somebody, that I might let somebody down and then have a very bad conscience about it. For example, when I am thrown into an unknown Latin American country, I could be asked to speak, to address the parliament. I give a talk, I try to be flowery, impressive. I deliver. But once this is over, I always turn to somebody and say, "What was it like? Was it good? Did I deliver?" I have always felt this uncertainty; I have always been a person suffering from stage fright, from fear. Fear is with me, but I act in spite of it.

On Humor

When a man or woman is ready to sacrifice everything for very serious matters, what happens in the end is that such a person takes himself or herself extremely seriously. His or her face then becomes very rigid, almost inhuman, and such a person becomes a monument. And as you know, monuments are made of stone or of plaster and it is very difficult for monuments to move. Their movements are clumsy. If one wishes to retain humanity, to stay human, it is important that you keep a certain distance. To keep this distance you need to be able to see that there is a certain element of absurdity, even ridicule, in one’s deeds.

On Hope

Often people confuse hope with prognostics. Prognostics is the science of studying whatever happens around you in the world. With it either you will make a positive prognosis (because you are an optimist) or a negative prognosis (which would have a pessimistic impact on the people around you). But it is very important to differentiate. Hope is not prognosis. Hope is something that I see as the state of the spirit. If life had no sense, then there would be no hope, because the very sense of life, the meaning of life, is closely linked with hope.

On Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom without responsibility is perhaps something that is a dream of almost everybody to do whatever you want to do and yet not to assume any responsibility for what you did. But of course, that would be a utopian life. And also, life without any responsibility would not make sense. So I think the value of freedom is linked with responsibility. And if freedom has no such responsibility associated with it, then it loses content, it loses sense, and it also loses weight.

Excerpted by permission of the Crown Publishing Group.

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