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Human Rights Day: The Eleanor Roosevelt Award and The Presidential Medal of Freedom

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December 6, 2000

Human Rights Day: The Eleanor Roosevelt Award and The Presidential Medal of Freedom

Today, President Clinton presented five Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards in celebration of Human Rights Day. He also awarded Burmese human rights and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This year's ceremony marks the 52nd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 to affirm the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all people. (Human Rights Day is usually celebrated on December 10, which this year falls on a Sunday.)

Human rights and democracy are integral to American values and also reinforce U.S. interests worldwide. President Clinton has made the promotion of democracy and human rights a significant component of his Administration's foreign and domestic policies.

The Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award

Eleanor Roosevelt was a driving force behind the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. President Clinton established this award in 1998 to honor her commitment to the principles of the Declaration.

This year, the Secretary of State recommended, and the President approved, five distinguished U.S. citizens to receive the third annual Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights for their achievements in human rights leadership at home and abroad.

The 2000 Eleanor Roosevelt Awardees are:

Tillie Black Bear: For more than 20 years, Tillie Black Bear has been a strong voice for Native American and women's rights and a leading advocate for victims of domestic violence. She founded the first shelter for battered women on an Indian reservation in 1977 and has worked with energy and determination to prevent domestic abuse, provide counseling and empower women with the tools they need to succeed.

Frederick Charles Cuny: For a lifetime of service to the civilian victims of conflict and disaster. From Africa to Central America, from Northern Iraq to Southeast Asia, from the Balkans to the Caucasus, Fred Cuny worked with vision, courage, sensitivity and compassion to relieve suffering and rebuild lives. The individuals he inspired and the humanitarian organizations he established carry on his legacy of service today. (Mr. Cuny's son Craig Cuny will receive the award on behalf of his late father.)

Norman Dorsen: For half a century, in landmark Supreme Court cases and congressional hearings, as President of the American Civil Liberties Union and Chairman of the Board of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, as an attorney and an educator at the New York University School of Law, Norman Dorsen has been a tenacious and outspoken defender of human rights, using the power of law to uphold civil rights at home and human dignity around the world.

Elaine R. Jones: In almost three decades at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Elaine Jones has committed herself to the pursuit of equal justice for all. As one of our Nation's leading civil rights attorneys and a vital force for change, she has represented the LDF in landmark cases before the Supreme Court, promoted groundbreaking civil rights legislation and widened the circle of opportunity for all Americans.

Most Reverend Theodore Edgar McCarrick: Archbishop McCarrick has been a lifelong human rights advocate. Whether seeking justice for immigrants and refugees, aiding the homeless and the hungry, championing religious freedom or advocating debt relief for developing countries, he has sought to loosen the bonds of fear, poverty and oppression and to affirm human dignity wherever it is denied.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is American's highest civilian honor, created by President Truman to honor noble service in times of war and expanded by President Kennedy to honor service in times of peace.

Aung San Suu Kyi: Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world's most prominent figures in the struggle to advance democracy and human rights. In response to the tyranny and brutality of the military regime ruling her native Burma, she has become a unifying voice for the oppressed, founding the National League for Democracy and leading it to an electoral victory that has never been honored by the Burmese government. Despite enduring house arrest, separation from her loved ones, and threats against her life, she has refused to be silenced. Her unwavering commitment to securing a free Burma through nonviolent means is an inspiration to people around the world. (Alexander Aris will receive the medal on behalf of his mother.)

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