Dr Kerry Kennedy receives Honorary Degree for global human rights work

01 July 2015

Dr Kerry Kennedy receives Honorary Degree for global human rights work

Dr Kerry Kennedy received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE spoke of her “delight and privilege” in honouring Dr Kerry Kennedy with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws for her work in the promotion of human rights around the world.

Dr Kennedy, daughter of Robert F Kennedy and President of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights centre, grew up as a member of an extraordinary family, a family that has made a significant impact on the lives of millions of people around the world.

Professor Gillies said: “As a tireless champion and advocate for social justice and human rights, Kerry Kennedy has herself sent out countless ripples of hope, and defended so many of the most vulnerable, all around the world. I am delighted that today we have the chance to be addressed such an inspirational leader.”

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights seeks to realise Robert Kennedy's dream of a peaceful and just world, with programmes creating lasting change worldwide through litigation, advocacy, education and training, and sustainable investment. One example that the centre uses in its courses, is of our Chancellor Yunus.

Professor Yunus was honoured with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 2013 Ripple of Hope Award, and Dr Kennedy has described our Chancellor’s efforts to transform lives as “the single most important development in the third world in the last 100 years”.

Speaking at GCU today, she again highlighted her admiration for Professor Yunus as one of “those determined people - human rights defenders who have faced imprisonment, torture and death for basic human rights”. 


Her own achievements are not insignificant. She started working in human rights 30 years ago, as an intern at Amnesty International in Washington, assigned the task of documenting abuses committed by American immigration officials against refugees from El Salvador.

Since then, Dr Kennedy has devoted herself to the pursuit of equal justice, the promotion and protection of basic rights, and the preservation of the rule of law. She has worked on a range of issues, including children’s rights, child labour, disappearances, indigenous land rights, judicial independence, freedom of expression, ethnic violence, impunity and the environment.

She has concentrated specifically on women’s rights, exposing injustices and educating audiences about women’s issues, particularly honour killings, sexual slavery, domestic violence, workplace discrimination, sexual assault, abuse of prisoners, and more. She has worked in over 60 countries and led hundreds of human rights delegations. At a time of diminished idealism and growing cynicism about public service, her life and lectures are testaments to the commitment to the basic values of human rights.

Receiving her Honorary Degree, Dr Kennedy highlighted that people have fought for human rights with nothing beyond their own determination. “Individuals created change. They harnessed the dream of freedom and made it come true. And their efforts created a ripple effect, encouraging others, building a tidal wave which swept down some of the mightiest walls of repression.”

In a GCU graduation day first, Dr Kennedy then started a rain dance which had the audience of graduates and their families, and GCU’s academics, on their feet, snapping fingers, clapping hands, slapping thighs and stomping feet in a bid to send rain to people in Sudan. Dr Kennedy was rewarded with a standing ovation following her address.