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,
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.