Human rights activist Kerry Kennedy has dedicated her life to social justice causes across the globe, but she urged delegates to "Speak Truth to Power" on human rights issues much closer to home - standing up for children.
She decried the demonization of teachers and urged NYSUT members to do their part to teach the next generation that they can make a difference and "right wrongs."
Kennedy made her remarks after receiving the Albert Shanker Award, the union's most prestigious award recognizing special contributions to public education. She was honored for establishing the Speak Truth to Power human rights curriculum in partnership with NYSUT, which was introduced in schools throughout New York state in November.
Through lesson plans developed by New York state classroom teachers, the grade 6-12 curriculum introduces students to courageous human rights defenders from across the globe. It encourages students to abandon the role of "bystander" and urges them to take action. NYSUT previously partnered with the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights and Kennedy to develop the "Speak Up, Speak Out" curriculum, providing lessons to instill the concept of social justice, the cornerstone of Robert F. Kennedy's legacy.
NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi noted the Shanker Award has been bestowed only 15 times since its inception 24 years ago.
"Kerry Kennedy's contributions to public education are immeasurable," Iannuzzi said. "Her work and commitment toward inspiring our students to speak up and speak out about human rights by fighting inequality and championing social justice will ensure the powerless are given a voice and an opportunity to improve their lives."
"NYSUT's leadership, members, actions and, most importantly, courage demonstrate a deep and abiding commitment to the protection of human rights and the empowerment of young people to create change," Kennedy said. "In spirit and practice, NYSUT embodies Speak Truth to Power." Kennedy announced that NYSUT and the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights will be launching a student video contest, with the winning entry to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.