Law school Dean Bernard Dobranski; scholar-in residence Doan Viet Hoat;
and the Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., CUA president.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 Calling Doan Viet Hoat "a man who redefines what it is to love ones country," Kerry Kennedy Cuomo presented the Vietnamese scholar with the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial award at The Catholic University of Americas law school.
"It has been 31 years since Robert Kennedy campaigned for the presidency," said Cuomo, director of the RFK Memorial. "All of my fathers works were formed by his love of country. Dr. Hoat is a man who redefines what it is to love ones country."
Hoat, who has been a scholar in residence at the universitys Columbus School of Law since September, was named recipient of the RFK Memorial Award in 1995. He was unable to receive the honor because he was serving a long prison sentence in Vietnam for publishing an underground paper called the Freedom Forum. The award is presented each year to individuals who, at great personal risk, stand up to oppression in their pursuit of respect for basic human rights.
In remarks to more than 150 people who attended the ceremony, including Robert F. Kennedys widow, Ethel, and another daughter, Courtney Kennedy Hill, Hoat said, "Today I feel at home the way I felt at home at the Buddhist University in Saigon."
Hoat told the audience that "no matter how wise a person is, no one has the right to take away or offer freedom to anyone else. Freedom is a natural right."
For more than 30 years, Hoat has been a leading advocate for human rights in Vietnam and a constant target of government harassment and repression. Throughout his 20 years of detention and imprisonment, Hoat issued frequent public letters and essays expressing his concern about human rights violations in Vietnam and urging the government to address them.
In August 1998 Hoat was released from prison after a campaign by human rights organizations and members of Congress.
Law school Dean Bernard Dobranski said he worked with New Jersey Rep. Christopher Smith, a member of the House subcommittee on international operations and human rights, the United States Information Agency, and others to obtain Hoats release.
"It was easier to get Dr. Hoat released with a job," Dobranski said. "We are very happy to have him here."
The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial was founded in 1968 by the friends and family of the former senator to carry forth his belief that individual action could overcome injustice and oppression.
With a history that dates to 1897, Catholic Universitys Columbus School of Law is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. The school is a pioneer in clinical education and is distinguished for offering one of the nations broadest ranges of clinical experiences to students. Additionally, the law school is widely recognized for special programs in communications law, law and public policy, law and religion, and comparative and international law.
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