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Kerry Kennedy Speaks at Hunter's Historic 200th Graduation

Hunter College observed a milestone on January 21 - its 200th commencement exercise. Exuberant families and friends filled Assembly Hall for the historic ceremony at which 1,300 degrees and certificates were conferred.

Commencement speaker Kerry Kennedy was quickly caught up in the spirit of the occasion, breaking off at one point from her prepared text speech to tell the enthusiastic audience, "I love this crowd - you're just great."

Kennedy is one of the nation's foremost human rights activists. She established the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights in 1988 in memory of her late father, and she has led more than 40 human rights delegations around the globe. Drawing on her long experience as an activist, Kennedy urged the graduating students to always remember that "determined people can change the world."

She spoke of her own first job after graduating from Brown, an internship at Amnesty International. "I found myself surrounded by Davids who stood up against a world of Goliaths," she said. "They were armed only with determination, but they never stopped fighting to make the dream of human rights come true."

She noted how far the world has come since the dark days of the 1970s and '80s when the Soviet Union was intact, dictators dominated Latin America and South Africa was ruled by an apartheid regime. Now, she said with evident pride, 183 nations have approved CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination).

But despite such gains, she said, millions of people around the world are still denied their basic rights. "The struggle goes on," she concluded. "We all have to speak out against injustice."

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