Speak Truth to Power:
Action and Inspiration


The Speak Truth to Power program also provides students with the opportunity to engage in human rights through media via music and video contests.

“Kids learn in different ways,” said Heffernan “What better way to get these kids interested in academics and to show they can make a difference. (These works) create empathy.”

RFK Human Rights leads the video contest in cooperation with the American Federation of Teachers and the Tribeca Film Institute. The grand prize winning video is screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

RFK Human Rights Speak Truth To Power www.speaktruthvideo.com 2015 - Grand Prize Winner Bloomfield Tech - Bloomfield, NJ Another Look at Genocide

Following a unit on the muckrakers of the Progressive era, Joe Karb leads his students in the creation of a short documentary, focused on a modern day defender. A group of his students had the opportunity to speak via Skype with 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi about his work fighting child labor.

Kailash Satyarthi with former child slaves in India/Photo credit:  The BBC

Kailash Satyarthi with former child slaves in India/Photo credit: The BBC

“For some of the students,” he said, “it’s really transformative for them. We live in a pretty rural, isolated area. It’s easy to think in terms of numbers, not personal stories. When they hear the stories of people who stood up to others, it’s changed their outlook on life, they realize the world is a big place.”

The video contest, he said, challenges students to create something that can inspire others to action. “In a way, they’re becoming modern muckrakers themselves.”

Speak Truth to Power has helped educate and inspire countless young people to action, from the students who learned about child labor in cacao fields and launched a “reverse trick-or-treat” project, in which they distributed fair trade chocolate and informational cards in their neighborhoods, to the high school junior who was on the verge of dropping out before he became involved with the creation of an STTP video about Wangari Maathai, who created the Green Belt Movement to fight deforestation in Kenya. That video, from the Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES school in upstate New York, won the grand prize in the STTP video contest in 2012.

“I am convinced that by education,” Heffernan said, “we can prevent human rights abuses if we bring together students who can form a citizenry that holds their governments accountable.”

In the words of Robert Kennedy: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. (Next)

About the Author: Holly Leber is the editorial director of the Daily Do Good. She appreciates muckraking, so long as proper fact checking prevails (see above re: editor).

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