Nelson Mandela has formed the Council of Elders. Most of the names are almost household words by now, our Jimmy Carter among them. One of the new Council members may not be as well known to you, and you may have just skipped over her name, Mary Robinson.
First, Mary Robinson is a very bright woman. At the age of 25, she became the youngest professor of law ever to be appointed at Dublin University’s Trinity College and was elected to Ireland's Senate that same year. In her work as a barrister, she handled many landmark cases for women’s rights. She is not only intelligent, she is charming, elegant and engaging and an absolute tiger on human rights, taking stands in the Irish Senate over the next two decades. Ms. Robinson earned not only the respect of her countrymen, but their love for her ideas.
Mary Robinson went on to be elected President of Ireland, a position she held from 1990-1997. As President, she caught the attention of the world when she became the first head of state to visit famine-ravaged Somalia and post-genocide Rwanda. She carried her human rights advocacy into her next position as the UN's second High Commissioner for Human Rights. In that position, "She held all governments equally accountable to the internationally recognized and legally enforceable standards," including that of George Bush.
"This challenged U.S. exceptionalism and placed Ms. Robinson on a collision course with Washington. Mary Robinson was outspoken in her criticism of U.S. efforts to undermine the International Criminal Court, its lack of regard for civilian casualties in the war waged in Afghanistan, and its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. She even dared to voice criticism of “internal” U.S. matters like the death penalty—a clear violation of international human rights norms. While condemning the horrible events of September 11, 2001, as a crime against humanity, and acknowledging the need to act to counter terrorism, she cautioned that in the ‘war on terror’ “[s]ome of the recipients of increased U.S. military aid are armed forces that have committed grave violations of human rights, and which the U.S. state department itself has identified as being amongst the worst human rights violators.”
"Today, as director of the Ethical Globalization Initiative, Mary Robinson is carrying human rights advocacy even deeper into the world, working to see that corporations too adhere to the human rights standards that all human beings require to live in dignity and to fulfill their potential."Mary Robinson's work touches so very many of the issues that are discussed here on DKos, but she carries her voice now onto a new and different stage, that of the Council of Elders. All of the people on the Council have long spoken singly against the evils perpetrated upon mankind, but now they will be speaking with a hopefully louder and more meaningful combined force that we can only hope will echo down the halls of many governments and into the doors of the corporations that have abandoned human rights.
Her words on her election as President of Ireland:
"I was elected by men and women of all parties and none, by many with great moral courage who stepped from the faded flags of the Civil War and voted for a new Ireland. And above all by the women of Ireland, who, instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system; and who came out massively to make their mark on the ballot paper, and on a new Ireland." She also gave an interpretation of what her victory against the odds meant: "To all those who have no voice or those whose voice is weak, I say, 'Take heart. There is hope. Look what you did in this election. You made history.' As president, I hope we will make history together."Mary Teresa Winifred Robinson, may your words 'Take heart. There is hope.” ring out to the world today in your new and well deserved position as one of the world’s most respected Elders and we will make history together yet one more time.