US President Presents University Chancellor Mary Robinson Medal of Freedom

Posted on: 13 August 2009

US President Barack Obama presented Mary Robinson, Chancellor of the University the Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour, at a ceremony in the White House on 12th August last.

The President described Mary Robinson as “an advocate for the hungry and haunted, the forgotten and ignored” and said she “has not only shone a light on human suffering but illuminated a better future for our world”.

The Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavours. This year’s 16 awardees were chosen for their work as agents of change.

President Obama praised the recipients for breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens: “These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds.  Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs.  Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change.  Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”

Chancellor of the university, dr mary robinson

Chancellor of the University, Dr Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. She served as a prominent member of the Irish Senate prior to her election as President. Dr Robinson continues to bring attention to international issues as Honorary President of Oxfam International, and Chairs the Board of Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI Alliance).  Since 2002 she has been President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative, based in New York, which is an organization she founded to make human rights the compass which charts a course for globalization that is fair, just and benefits all.

A graduate and former lecturer of the university, in 1998 Dr Robinson was elected Chancellor of the University.