2010.10.26> For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Relations
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Human Rights Activist Robert Bernstein to Give Lecture at UNO
Omaha - Robert Bernstein, publisher and human rights activist, will present the 2010 Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. The lecture will be held in the Thompson Alumni Center’s Bootstrapper Hall on the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) campus.
Bernstein will lecture on “Are Human Rights Organizations Helping or Hurting Relations between Israel, Palestine and the Arabs?”
Bernstein has devoted his life to the active defense of freedom of expression and to the protection of victims of injustice and abuse throughout the world. As one of the most influential voices in American publishing for over three decades, he is also a dominant force in the development of the international human rights movement.
Bernstein started as an office boy at Simon & Schuster in 1946, moved to Random House in 1956 and succeeded Bennett Cerf as president and CEO in 1966. He headed Random House for 25 years. He published many well-known American authors, including William Faulkner, James Michener, Dr. Seuss, Toni Morrison and William Styron.
After being invited to the Soviet Union as part of a delegation from the Association of American Publishers, he became interested in writers whose work could not be published in their own countries. Beginning with Andrei Sakharov and Elena Bonner, he ensured that authors like Vaclav Havel, Jacobo Timerman and Wei Jinsheng were all published around the world.
After his experience in Moscow in 1973, Bernstein returned to the U.S. and established the Fund for Free Expression, which eventually grew into Human Rights Watch. Today, Human Rights Watch has a staff of nearly 200 and covers some 70 countries. With offices in a dozen places, Human Rights Watch is known for its research and effective advocacy on a broad range of issues, including women’s rights, children’s rights, international justice, the human rights responsibilities of corporations, refugees, arms transfers and free expression everywhere. Bernstein served as chair for twenty years and remains active as founding chair. He is also chair emeritus of the largest Chinese human rights organization, Human Rights in China, with offices in New York and Hong Kong.
Bernstein has won numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the Florina Lasker Award from the New York Civil Liberties Union; the Human Rights Award from the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights; the Spirit of Liberty Award from People for the American Way; the Barnard Medal of Distinction from Barnard College; the Curtis Benjamin Award for Distinguished Publishing from the Association of American Publishers; and, in 1998, the United States’ first Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, which was presented by President William C. Clinton. In 2010 he received the Samuel Johnson Award for Public Service from Partnership for Children’s Rights, in New York City.
He is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Yale University, Swarthmore College, The New School, Bard College, Hofstra University, Bates College and Tougaloo College. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard.
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The Shirley and Leonard Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights was established in 1997 through a significant gift from Shirley and Leonard Goldstein. The Goldstein Lecture brings to the UNO campus each year a distinguished scholar or leading expert on human rights. Goldstein Lecturers are expected to represent a wide range of views on a variety of human rights issues. The Lecture will be available both to UNO students and the metropolitan Omaha community.
For over 25 years, Shirley Goldstein has devoted her life to promoting human rights around the world and especially to securing freedom for Soviet Jews. Operating on her conviction that one person can make a difference, Shirley Goldstein did just that--she made a significant difference in the lives of hundreds of individuals persecuted by the Soviet Union and other governments. She has also inspired others to take up the cause of freedom and human rights. Always supported by her husband, Leonard, Shirley made numerous trips to the Soviet Union to meet with Soviet dissidents and refuseniks, including Anatoly Sharansky. Together, the Goldsteins established the Lecture to focus attention on the plight of people around the world who suffer from the abuse of human rights. The lecture is open and free to the public.
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