NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Amal Clooney urged young students at Vanderbilt University to have courage, citing some of the human rights cases she has worked on, because it inspires others and creates rights for future generations.
The human rights lawyer spoke Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee, for senior day, a part of the university's commencement activities. She was given the school's Nichols-Chancellor's Medal.
She used examples of courageous people including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vanderbilt students who took part in sit-ins during the Civil Rights era to fight for equal rights.
"A hundred years ago there would have been few women here at the Vanderbilt commencement," Clooney said. "Sixty years ago there would have been no African-American students in the senior day audience. There is still much to do but it is thanks to the courageous people who've come before us that we have the rights that we have today including courageous students who were right here on this campus."
She also told the stories of two clients she had represented, including a Yazidi woman who was kidnapped by militants in Iraq and a female journalist who was arrested after reporting on corruption by the president of Azerbaijan. But she said more courage is needed around the world.
"At a time when the LGBT community in every continent struggles for equal rights, freedom from imprisonment and even death, we need courage," Clooney said. "At a time when more journalists are in prison around the world than at any time in the last three decades, and even here at home the media is under attack from the White House, we need courage. And at a time when our politicians try to conflate the terms refugee and terrorist and make us fear one another, we need courage."
Clooney admitted that she had never been to Tennessee before, but said her husband George Clooney told her the university had a good basketball team in the Vanderbilt Commodores.