PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Kenneth Roth, a 1977 Brown University graduate and a human-rights crusader, will deliver the 2011 Baccalaureate address at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 28, in the First Baptist Meeting House.
In his address, titled “Finding Your Way When There Are No Rules,” Roth will explain what human rights' work and the Arab Spring say about making one's way in the world.
Because the graduating class will fill the Meeting House to capacity on that Saturday, the Baccalaureate service will be simulcast to the College Green, where family and friends of the graduates may view the proceedings on a large-format video display.
Roth has been the executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993 and has been with the organization since 1987. Human Rights Watch investigates, reports on, and seeks to curb human rights abuses in more than 90 countries, including some of the world’s most dangerous and oppressed places. Through his involvement with Human Rights Watch, Roth has conducted investigations around the globe, devoting special attention to issues of justice and accountability for gross abuses of human rights, standards governing military conduct in time of war, the human rights policies of the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, and the human rights responsibilities of multinational businesses. He has written more than 160 articles and chapters on a range of human rights topics in such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, the International Herald Tribune, and the New York Review of Books. He also regularly appears in the major media and speaks to audiences around the world.
A graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University, Roth was drawn to the human rights cause in part by his father's experience fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938. He began working on human rights after the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981, and soon also became deeply engaged in fighting military repression in Haiti. In his eighteen years as executive director of Human Rights Watch, the organization has grown eight-fold, greatly expanding its geographic reach, and adding special programs devoted to refugees, children's rights, international justice, AIDS, gay and lesbian rights, human rights emergencies, terrorism and counterterrorism, and the human rights responsibilities of multinational corporations.
Previously, he was a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. He also worked in private practice as a litigator.
Roth will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) degree. Nine other distinguished candidates will be conferred honorary degrees during the University's 243rd Commencement exercises, Sunday, May 29, 2011. The candidates include Olympian Katie King Crowley, online editor Arianna Huffington, columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, Brown mathematician David B. Mumford, actor Jack Nicholson, playwright Lynn Ida Nottage, physicist Lisa Randall, human rights activist Kenneth Roth, astronaut David R. Scott, and poet and editor Zhenkai Zhao (Bei Dao).
The Baccalaureate Service
The Baccalaureate Service, with roots in medieval academic tradition, honors the achievements of the candidates for the bachelor’s (“bacca”) degree by presenting them with the laurels (“lauri”) of oration. Brown’s baccalaureate tradition derives from the immense range of religious, ethnic, geographic, linguistic, and musical traditions present within the campus community. The ceremony includes rituals, readings, and prayers from Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and animist traditions, as well as choral and instrumental music, the Chinese lion dance, poetry, dance, and Taiko and Senegalese drumming.
The service is conducted in the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church in America, completed in 1775 “for the Publick Worship of Almighty God, and also for holding Commencement in.” Significant portions of the University’s Commencement ceremonies have been held in the church ever since.