Human rights advocate to speak

John Prendergast, human rights activist and bestselling author, will address UNA’s graduating class at the fall 2011 commencement ceremony Dec. 16.

Prendergast is the cofounder of the Enough Project, a group that aims to put an end to genocide and crimes against humanity. The project is affiliated with the Center for American Progress. Under this initiative, he has also launched the Satellite Sentinel Project with George Clooney, which focuses on the prevention of conflict and human rights abuse through satellite images.

Prendergast has been advocating and working for peace in Africa for more than 25 years. He co-authored a recent bestselling book titled “Unlikely Brothers,” which was released in May 2011 and was written alongside his first little brother in the Big Brother program, which he has been a member for more than 20 years.

Prendergast has been awarded six honorary doctorate degrees and has been a visiting professor at multiple universities, such as Stanford University, Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh.

Josh Woods, director of University Communications, said it is important for graduates to hear from someone who is influential and one of the best in their field, like Prendergast.

“To become the best-that’s one of the reasons people go to college to begin with,” Woods said. “There’s something particularly important and signifying about bringing someone so special to campus that truly is as influential as Prendergast.

“It’s good just to expose graduates to some of the people who are the best in their fields. That’s one of our aims in selecting a commencement speaker. It broadens their horizons.”

David Shields, vice president of Student Affairs, also feels that it is important to have someone of Prendergast’s caliber speak to the graduating class.

“Our goal is not necessarily to get graduates to remember their commencement speaker’s name,” Shields said. “We want graduates to remember what the speaker said. Our hope is that we’re not just sending out well-prepared individuals, but rather change agents and people that will change the world for the better. Prendergast has done that, and we’re hoping that he can impart some wisdom to our graduates.”

Shields also said that Prendergast’s message will be one not just for the graduates, but for everyone in attendance.

“It’s about being engaged and active in something in your community,” he said. “Find something that you’re passionate about and get involved. You can be successful at your career and make a lot of money, but if you haven’t done anything to help others around you, you haven’t fully lived.”