On 24 April 2017, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Ms Marianna Vardinoyannis and the President of “Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights”, Ms Kerry Kennedy, presented the education programme on human rights entitled Speak Truth to Power, as well as the Greek edition of the curriculum, an educational tool for secondary school teachers. The event was held at the Acropolis Museum auditorium and was attended by representatives of the academic, political, diplomatic and media communities.
Ms Marianna V. Vardinoyannis delivered the opening address at the event, noting, “Greece, the small rocky promontory in the Mediterranean, with its immense tradition that has been handed down through the centuries without interruption, as the great poet George Seferis once said, is the home of democracy and a defender of the human values of peace and freedom. As a nation, we are burdened by great tradition and an even greater responsibility to continue to stand at the forefront of the struggle for human rights. Our Foundation, through this partnership with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, envisions placing yet another little brick on this edifice. Despite the fact that we are living at a time when human rights are inalienable and non-negotiable, our world continues to be plagued by violence and injustice, with millions suffering around the globe. I feel deeply touched because, as of this year, Greece and the new generation of this land will become the recipients of the great efforts made by the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Center, and we are honoured that they entrusted our Foundation with the task of bringing this project to Greek schools.”
In her speech, Ms Vardinoyannis voiced her gratitude to the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Prokopis Pavlopoulos, for placing the programme under his auspices and thanked him for his invaluable support for her Foundation’s efforts. She also wholeheartedly thanked Ms Kerry Kennedy for her invaluable assistance and for the fact that she visited Greece for the sole purpose of attending the presentation of the Greek edition of the Speak Truth to Power education programme. Upon closing, she added, “I chose to save my warmest wishes for last, for the educators who have already embraced the programme, for all those studying it, for all the school principals who responded to our call immediately, as well as for all those who will join our team soon; for all those who will become defenders of human rights once they hold our book in their hands and who will disseminate to the young people of Greece the knowledge and attitude that will make them heroes in their everyday lives and responsible citizens! This is my biggest wish!”
Ms Kerry Kennedy took the floor next and spoke about the significance of the Speak Truth to Power curriculum, about the fact that everyone being taught draws inspiration from the lives of fighters and about how much the people who were taught the programme changed in the various countries where it was introduced. “No one believes that they can make a difference as a defender of human rights. However, changes are made by people just like you and me; with fears, hopes and dreams just like ours. If we can pass this lesson on to the younger generation, they will be able to change the local community, as well as the whole world. By giving our children the tools to become defenders of human rights, we show them the right path towards a better future. In every speech he made, Robert F. Kennedy kept repeating that improving the world is everyone’s duty. This is what I too believe, this is what I have seen happen where people have a duty towards their fellow citizens. I believe that the Speak Truth to Power programme helps us reach this realisation, helps us wonder what we can do so that people around us won’t suffer, and it gives us the strength to care and perform our duty. We are very happy and grateful that this programme has reached Greece, the cradle of civilization. Thanks to the hard work done by Ms Marianna Vardinoyannis, today Greece in investing in its children.”
Immediately afterwards, Professor George Babiniotis, a Member of the Honorary Committee for the Greek Programme, presented the book “Speak Truth to Power”. As Mr Babiniotis noted, “This book is a valuable educational acquisition, as it delivers the greatest lesson to schools, the value of human existence and the message of the struggle to defend all its forms: to defend people’s freedom – the freedom of all people on Earth; to defend dignity, life, education, equality, justice, personal life and family; to defend respect for gender and all forms of diversity. Ms Kennedy’s book is well and cleverly structured, serving its aims in an effective and practical manner. The way each section/lesson is structured is marvelous; the way it has been conceived by Ms Kerry Kennedy and her associates, with diversity and abundance of ideas and proposals, with ingenuity, and with activities that spark interest and lead to truly creative student activities on each topic , prompting intellectual and experiential learning. So, from personal knowledge, I believe the schools that adopt this education programme will ensure that their students become familiar with crucial issues relating to social awareness, humanity and self-awareness, motivated by personal quests, thoughts and concerns. Ultimately, this programme will help students become better people.” In concluding, Mr Babiniotis, in his capacity as President of the Arsakeio Schools around Greece, stated, “We will be implementing the education programme of the Kennedy Foundation on Human Rights at the Arsakeio Schools of Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, Ioannina and Tirana, Albania, working closely with the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation, so that we too can contribute towards making your vision, which was so actively embraced by Goodwill Ambassador Mr Marianna Vardinoyannis, a reality.”
Professor Dimitris Pantermalis, President of the Acropolis Museum, also addressed the event, while reporter Maria Karchilaki, Editor-at-large for CNN Greece, coordinated the proceedings.
Mr Christos Milionis delivered a message on behalf of the Greek Education Minister, Mr Konstantinos Gavroglou, noting, “We are hoping that the students will not limit themselves to learning what the human rights are, but will also learn how to claim and defend them. The role of school and young people is important.” Addressing Ms Vardinoyannis, he added, “Thank you for making a contribution to education.”
The event ended on a musical note. Baritone Nikolas Karagiaouris and pianist Panos Loumakis performed the aria “Escamillo” from Georges Bizet’s Carmen and the song “Beautiful and Strange Homeland”, with lyrics by Odysseas Elytis and music by Dimitris Lagios.
After the event, Ms Kennedy and Ms Vardinoyannis visited the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Prokopis Pavlopoulos, at the Presidential Mansion, presented him with a copy of the Greek educational book “Speak Truth to Power”, and talked with him about the implementation of the curriculum in the schools of Attica.
An educational seminar for secondary school teachers was organised in the context of the presentation of the Greek edition of the “Speak Truth to Power” education programme, and was attended by teachers from private and public schools.
Ms Kerry Kennedy and Ms Karen Robinson, Senior Education and Training Manager at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, talked to the Greek teachers about the Speak Truth to Power curriculum and educational practices. The seminar was coordinated by Ms Rodi Kratsa, BoD Member at the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation and President of the Konstantinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy.
Others who attended the event included: Ms Sissy Pavlopoulou, wife of the President of the Hellenic Republic; Mr Panagiotis Kouroumblis, Shipping Minister; Mr Terence Quick, Deputy Foreign Minister; Mr Adonis Georgiadis, Vice President of New Democracy, and his wife Eugenia; Mr Giannis Plakiotakis, MP for New Democracy; Mr Lucas Papademos, former Prime Minister of Greece, and his wife Shanna; Dr Athanasios-Meletios Dimopoulos, Dean of Athens University, and his wife Dora; Ms Kiki Dimoula, Mr Christos Zerefos and Mr Konstantinos Svolopoulos, academic professors; Ms Mary Pyatt, wife of the US Ambassador to Greece; Ambassadors Dionysis Kodelas and Vasilis Kaskarelis; Prince Nikolaos and his wife Princess Tatiana and others.