Kerry Kennedy is the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. She is the best-selling author of Being Catholic Now, Prominent Americans talk about Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning, and Speak Truth to Power; Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World.
Ms. Kennedy's life has been devoted to the vindication of equal justice, to the promotion and protection of basic rights, and to the preservation of the rule of law. She has worked on diverse human rights issues such as children’s rights, child labor, 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 honor 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.
Ms. Kennedy established RFK Partners for Human Rights in 1986 to ensure the protection of rights codified under the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. RFK Partners provides an on going base of support to leading human rights defenders around the world. The Center uncovers and publicizes abuses such as torture, disappearances, repression of free speech, and child labor; urges Congress and the U.S. administration to highlight human rights in foreign policy; supplies activists with the resources they need to advance their work; and creates other programs to advance respect for human rights. Ms. Kennedy also founded RFK Compass, which works on sustainable investing with leaders in the financial community. She started the RFK Training Institute in Florence, Italy, which offers courses of study to leading human rights defenders across the globe.
She is the author of Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World, which features interviews with human rights activists including Marian Wright Edelman, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and more. Speak Truth, a global education initiative to aid the fight for international human rights, grew from her book exploring the quality of courage through the words of leading human rights defenders to the moving and inspiring play by esteemed Chilean poet and Broadway playwright Ariel Dorfman, the stirring photographic exhibition by Pulitzer Prize-winner Eddie Adams, a PBS documentary film, an education packet, five public service announcements on national television, an award-winning website, www.speaktruthtopower.org and federal legislation which increased federal funding for the protection of human rights. The book has been translated into Arabic, Greek, Italian, Korean, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish. Ms. Kennedy produced the premiere of the play at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She has since produced the play to acclaim hundreds of times on six continents in 7 languages. The website has attracted millions of viewers, reading, learning, taking action. With curricula spanning kindergarten through law school, the education program is taught to over one million students worldwide every year.
She appears regularly on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and PBS as well as on networks in countries around the world, and her commentaries and articles have been published in The Boston Globe, The Chicago Sun-Times, L’Unita, The Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, Marie Claire, The New York Times, El Pais, Pagina12, TV Guide and the Yale Journal of International Law, and the Huffington Post, among others. As a special correspondent for the environmental magazine television program, “Network Earth”, she reported on human rights and the environment. She interviewed human rights leaders for Voice of America.
Ms. Kennedy is Chair of the Amnesty International USA Leadership Council. Nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate, she serves on the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace, Human Rights First, HealthEVillages and Inter- Press Service (Rome, Italy). She is a patron of the Bloody Sunday Trust (Northern Ireland) and serves on the Editorial Board of Advisors of the Buffalo Human Rights Law Review. She is on the Advisory Committee for the association of American Indian Affairs; International Campaign for Tibet, the Committee on the Administration of Justice of Northern Ireland, the Global Youth Action Network, Studies without Borders and several other organizations. She serves on the leadership council of the Amnesty International Campaign to Stop Violence Against Women and on the Advisory Board of the Albert Schweitzer Institute and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s National Advisory Council.
Ms. Kennedy received high honors from President Lech Walesa of Poland for aiding the Solidarity movement. She has received awards from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for leadership in abolishing the death penalty, and the American Jewish Congress of the Metropolitan Region, the Emerald Isle Immigration Society, and the Institute for the Italian American experience three I’s award for outstanding efforts and achievements for human rights. She was named Woman of the Year 2001 by Save the Children, received the Crossing Borders Award from the Feminist press in 2003, Humanitarian of the Year Award from the South Asian Media Awards Foundation, the Prima Donna Award from Montalcino Vineyards, and other awards and honors in 2008 she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Medal of Honor and the Thomas Moore Award from Boston College Law School. World Vision and International AIDS Trust gave her the 2009 Human Rights Award. She has received awards from NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Teachers Association. In 2013 she received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from the Unitarian Universalists.
Ms. Kennedy has served in numerous political campaigns, and she is a member of the Massachusetts and District of Columbia bars. She is a graduate of Brown University and Boston College Law School, and she holds honorary doctorates of law from Le Moyne College and University of San Francisco Law School, and honorary doctorates of Human Letters from Bay Path College and the Albany College of Pharmacy.
Kerry Kennedy is the mother of three daughters, Cara, Mariah, and Michaela.