Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, will visit the College on Oct. 25 to deliver a lecture. Robinson, the seventh and first female President of Ireland, held the office from 1990 to 1997. After leaving office, she became the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, traveling to war-torn regions. Robinson is a member of the group of world leaders known as The Elders, many of them former heads of state who no longer hold public office and work as advocates for peace and human rights. The group was brought together by Nelson Mandela and is chaired by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Robinson has made combating climate change a centerpiece of her international advocacy.
Robinson’s lecture is the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB)’s fall speaker. It is a public lecture that will take place at 7 p.m. at Mead Chapel. Robinson will speak for approximately an hour and will take questions afterward.
MCAB President Zoe Kaslow ’15 said the Board wanted a speaker that could talk about women’s rights and topics that would apply to a community larger than Middlebury. “Mary Robinson was definitely the number one choice, I think especially because she speaks on so many topics that are relevant to the College,” Kaslow said. Last spring, Kaslow was the co-chair of the Speakers Committee along with Robbie LaCroix ’16 and initiated the plan that would ultimately bring Robinson to campus.
Kaslow said when reading the College’s Mission Statement, the values listed lined up with what Robinson focuses on in her work. “I think she is going to be fantastic, she really has a presence and I think her credentials really speak for themselves,” Kaslow said.
Robinson’s endeavors are similar to the College’s efforts to attain carbon-neutrality by 2016 and embark on other projects in sustainability. In a June 2014 speech to the Freedom and Solidarity Forum, she said, “To put it starkly, the physical world faces potential catastrophe because of climate change and we are running out of time to take the necessary corrective action. We need rapidly and equitably to make the transition to a carbon-neutral world.”
In July of 2014, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Robinson as Special Envoy for Climate Change. She is now the President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, an organization that focuses on raising awareness of the consequences of climate change for the world’s poor.
Nicholas Orr ’15 is a co-chair of the MCAB Speakers Committee, along with Izzy Kannegieser ’17. “Students are very excited,” Orr said. “I think it’s a very relevant topic and it’s one of the highest-profile speakers we’ve had in the last few years.” The most recent former head of state to visit the College was President Bill Clinton, who delivered the Commencement address in 2007.
The lecture by Robinson also takes place during Fall Family Weekend. “I think it’s a nice thing to take your parents to as well,” Orr said.