Brian Dooley, director of the Human Rights Defenders program at Human Rights First, will speak to Ross School's 2013 graduating class at the commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 15. Human Rights First is a U.S.–based independent advocacy and action organization with the mission of pressing the U.S. government and private companies to be respectful and supportive of human rights across the globe. As director of the Human Rights Defenders program, Dooley leads the organization’s efforts to protect those who step up to advocate for human rights by amplifying their voices and bringing them to the attention of the international community.
Dooley’s prior experience working with nongovernmental organizations is extensive. Early in his career, in 1981–1982, Dooley served as an English teacher and community organizer in racially segregated South Africa, in defiance of the apartheid laws in place at the time. This experience laid the groundwork for his subsequent position as an intern for Senator Edward Kennedy, in which he contributed to the legislation that was enacted into U.S. law as the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Act. In the two decades before he took the position at Human Rights First, Dooley was involved with NGOs in Ireland and the United States, including Amnesty International and Public Citizen. He has also authored several books on the interaction of U.S. politics and civil rights.
Asma Najem, a Ross School senior, had the opportunity to work with Dooley in a monthlong fellowship at Human Rights First during Midwinter Term (M-Term) in March. She worked directly with Dooley in Washington, D.C., researching and reporting on ongoing human rights violations taking place in Bahrain, Egypt, Ethiopia, and other countries. Asma also had an opportunity to attend congressional briefings and meetings with congressmen and senators, correspond with activists on the ground, and take part in research to help build reports. Asma plans to continue pursuing her involvement in human rights issues at Brown University this fall, where she will study entrepreneurship, film, and political science/international relations.