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Wofford gives talk on Hesburgh and human rights

| Monday, April 7, 2014

Harris Wofford delivered the final installment in the Hesburgh Libraries Lecture Series on Friday with a presentation titled “Fr. Hesburgh and Human Rights: His Legacy and Our Bridge to the Future.” Wofford discussed University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh’s commitment to service, higher education and human rights.

Wofford has served as a senator of Pennsylvania, associate professor at the Notre Dame Law School and legal counsel to Hesburgh on the first United States Commission on Civil Rights.

“[Fr. Hesburgh] is Notre Dame’s,” Woffard said. “[One] cannot go around the globe without knowing that Notre Dame is on the map as one of the great universities, and that’s part of Fr. Ted Hesburgh’s legacy.

“If you would look at his schedule, or see him in South Bend or have dinner with him at the Morris Inn, you will see how often he is called on as teacher, as friend, as priest, for advice and help.”

Hesburgh was selected to be on the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 1957. Wofford said he met Hesburgh when the University President Emeritus read a memorandum written by Wofford on the Civil Rights Commission.

Hesburgh contacted Wofford to ask if they could discuss his memorandum and, following that discussion, Hesburgh asked Wofford to serve as counsel to him on the Civil Rights Commission, according to Wofford. The Civil Rights Commission went on to write the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

“Those two years [working] with him were two of the greatest years of my life, and he is an extraordinary leader,” Wofford said. “He could not have been achieving everything he was achieving at Notre Dame and everything he was doing outside of Notre Dame without being a very effective man,” Wofford.

Hesburgh was also very crucial to the creation of the Peace Corps, Wofford said.

“The great carriers of the Peace Corps were the institutions of higher education, colleges and universities with experience overseas, administering projects and be involved directly. Hesburgh worked to frame a program for Notre Dame to run the Peace Corps in Chile … Hesburgh began the Peace Corps Program in Chile,” Wofford said.

Hesburgh’s accomplishments are due to his leadership skills and explosive personality, Wofford said.

“Fr. Hesburgh is one of all the people I’ve worked with that is the most fun, most respected, most generating energy and ideas,” Wofford said.

Hesburgh’s contributions stretch around the world and continue to inspire younger generations, Wofford said.

Wofford closed his presentation by quoting Hesburgh himself.

“Having travelled across the face of our beautiful planet and traversed all its oceans and continents, having shared deep human hopes with brothers and sisters of every nationality, religion, color and race, having broken bread and found loving friendship and brotherhood everywhere on Earth, I am prepared this day to declare myself a citizen of the world and to invite everyone everywhere to embrace the vision of a common humanity, our noblest hopes and a common quest for peace on Earth, now and in the next millennium,” Hesbugh said in 1974, according to Wofford.

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About Kayla Mullen

Kayla is a senior political science major and the Managing Editor of The Observer. She hails from Philadelphia, PA and was previously a resident of Howard Hall.

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