2013 Human Rights Conference Opening Remarks

Welcome to Webster University and our annual Human Rights Conference. It is a pleasure to see you all here, and I think you will find that this conference just keeps getting better and better each year. As a president and representative of Webster University, I am proud that we take on topics like these in such depth, whether here at our home campus or at our European campuses where Human Rights programs are a growing and vibrant field. But from a purely organizational perspective as the leader of this University, I am also quite proud of how the planning, the execution and the presentations for this conference involved contributions from engaged faculty and students at Webster campuses around the world.  It is great work that you all are doing here this weekend. It is our honor to have you share it here at Webster.

Our mission as a worldwide institution is to provide high-quality learning experiences that transform each Webster student for individual excellence and global citizenship. The global effort to make this a great conference is a tangible result of that. Webster’s Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies takes the lead in pulling together this conference each year, but it does not succeed without the participation of so many concerned global citizens like you.

As you know, this year’s theme focuses on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and Stateless Persons. “Forgotten people,” they are sometimes called. Or “Nowhere People,” as Greg Constantine calls them in his striking photo exhibit you will see here this weekend. From unrecognized “ghost” tribes here in the United States to stateless people in places like Burma, there are many such peoples who can gain from the work and insights that will be shared here over the next two days. As participants in higher education, we have an obligation to shine the light on the plight of such “nowhere people.” True global citizens value the dignity and rights of every human being. A global civil society is based on the preservation of international human rights.

I would like to think we are doing exactly that here this weekend. I thank you for coming, and I wish you a great conference.

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