NEC Announces Commencement Speakers
The 61st Commencement of New England College will be held on Saturday, May 10, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. in the College’s Lee Clement Arena. The College will award the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Cambodian-American author, activist, and lecturer Loung Ung; renowned poet Galway Kinnell; and writer, educator, and member of the Indian Parliament Radhakant Nayak.
Galway Kinnell is one of the most influential American poets of the 20th century. He is the author of 10 books of poetry, a novel, a children’s book and several books of translation, including the poems of Francois Villon and Rainer Maria Rilke. Kinnell’s work deals with social issues woven together with his love of nature and spiritual connectedness. The American Poetry Review described him as someone who, “speaks with a big voice about the whole of life.” Inspiration for his writing came from a variety of authors including Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. His Selected Poems of 1984 received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and he is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, MacArthur Fellowship, Rockefeller Grant, the Shelley Prize of the Poetry Society of America, and the Medal of Merit from the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He has been State Poet of Vermont and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Among the many colleges and universities where he has taught are the University of California at Irvine, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, Brandeis University, as well as universities in France, Australia, and Iran. He was, for many years, Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University. Throughout the 1960s Kinnell was immersed in the Civil Rights Movement and joined the Congress of Racial Equality. Deeply committed to human rights, he worked on voter registration in Louisiana. He is a graduate of Princeton University and received an M.A. from the University of Rochester.
DR. RADHAKANT NAYAK
Although India’s 3000 year old caste system was abolished by its Parliament in the 1960s, the patterns and practices of this system of social hierarchy have been slow to change. The Dalit, or untouchables, were so far removed from the social structure as to be considered outside the caste system entirely. Numbering over 160 million people, the Dalits have historically been denied access to adequate food, shelter, safety, education, healthcare, and employment.
Throughout his career as a writer, political and social worker, and educator, R. K. Nayak has made it his life’s work to advocate for the Dalit and to rebuild the social structure to include all of India’s people. As a government official in his native province of Orissa, Nayak worked with tribal and scheduled castes to provide research, training, and welfare programs. Later, for the Government of India, he held positions in the Ministries of Social Justice and Empowerment and Tribal Affairs, and Rural Employment and the Alleviation of Poverty. He was elected to the Indian Parliament in 2004 and served on the Committee on the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and Social Justice and Empowerment. As the editor-in-chief of India’s only rural based social daily newspaper, Janavani, Nayak established a network of journalists to report on human rights and social development. He is the founder of the National Institute of Social Work and Social Sciences (NISWASS) and the Centre for Development Education and Communication in Orissa and is the Chairman of the Dalit Literature and Art Academy. He is the recipient of the Dr. Ambedkar National Award for the significant impact his work has had on the quality of life for India’s poor.
Loung Ung, author, activist, and lecturer, is a survivor of the 1975 Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia known as “the Killing Fields.” The genocide that followed left nearly two million Cambodians dead; approximately one quarter of the country’s population. During the Khmer Rouge regime Loung’s parents and two siblings died as did twenty additional relatives. Loung Ung has spent her adult life advocating for human rights in Cambodia and throughout the world. She is the national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World. The World Economic Forum named her one of the 100 Global Youth Leaders of tomorrow and she has presented at numerous international conferences including the Young Presidents’ Organization, the UN Conference on Women in Beijing, the UN Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, and the Child Soldiers Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her bestselling book, First They Killed My Father: a Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, was published in 2000 and has been translated into nine languages and published in twelve countries. In 2005 she published her second book, Lucky Child, which has been used widely in educational reading programs around the country. She has been the subject of numerous documentaries, newspaper, radio, and television programs and has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Boston Globe and the London Sunday Times.