In an era of rising populism, cynicism and challenges to the post-war institutions of the West, what’s a good global citizen to do?
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Hart House welcomed celebrated human rights activist Stephen Lewis; his powerful and sobering address was inspired by a Hart House debate held in 1957 that featured then U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy as a guest speaker, and a 20-year old Lewis as one of the students debating the resolution “This House Believes the United States has Failed in its Responsibility as a World Leader.”
In his Hart House Centennial Dialogue keynote address, Lewis spoke to the most pressing and difficult issues of our time, including climate crisis, economic and social justice, global human rights and disarmament. Lewis was joined by legendary social justice advocate and journalist Michele Landsberg, who provided opening remarks, and acclaimed broadcaster Shelagh Rogers, who moderated the discussion. Together, along with U of T students and young alumni Vince Wong, Emily Chu and Rebekah Robinson, they explored their perspectives on international engagement and change-making.
Stephen Lewis is the co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization, and he is the co-chair of the board of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
Mr. Lewis is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Emeritus Board Member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, and he served as a Commissioner on the Global Commission on HIV & the Law.
Stephen Lewis’ work with the United Nations spanned more than two decades. He was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from June 2001 until the end of 2006. From 1995 to 1999, Mr. Lewis was Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF at the organization’s global headquarters in New York. From 1984 through 1988, he was Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations.
From 1970-1978, Mr. Lewis was leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, during which time he became leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Lewis holds 42 honorary doctorates from Canadian and American universities, and in 2003, Stephen Lewis was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest honour for lifetime achievement.
Michele Landsberg is an award-winning Canadian writer, social activist and feminist who wrote a major column for the Toronto Star newspaper for 25 years.
As a trailblazing feminist columnist, Ms. Landsberg drew the public’s attention to wrongs, injustices, and anomalies that had been virtually invisible before she brought them vividly to life in print. Her column quickly became one of the best-read and influential features in The Star and remained so until her retirement in 2003.
In 2005, Michele Landsberg became chair of the Board of Directors of Women’s College Hospital, which she helped to guide to a new and pioneering role in women’s health care.
Ms. Landsberg is an activist in progressive causes as well as a journalist and has written four best-selling books: Women and Children First, a collection of her columns; Michele Landsberg’s Guide to Children’s Books, and “This is New York, Honey!” A Homage to Manhattan, with Love and Rage, a memoir of her time living in New York as the spouse of Stephen Lewis, Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations. In 2011, she published Writing the Revolution a retrospective of the Canadian feminist movement.
Other distinctions include two National Newspaper Awards, the YWCA Women of Distinction Award, the Dodi Robb award from MediaWatch, the Florence Bird Award from the International Centre for Human Rights, and Canadian Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the 1929 Persons Case.
Michele Landsberg has received six honorary degrees and in 2006 was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
A veteran broadcast-journalist, Shelagh Rogers is the host of and a producer for The Next Chapter, the award-winning CBC Radio program devoted to writing in Canada. In 2011, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for promoting Canada's culture, and for volunteer work in the fields of mental health, adult literacy and truth and reconciliation. Also, in 2011, she was inducted as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission Honorary Witness. Through sharing what she witnessed, she has committed to helping create a national understanding of the residential school era so that Canada will never forget or be able to deny our true history.
Shelagh is the co-editor of three books in the Aboriginal Healing Foundation’s series Speaking My Truth. She holds honorary degrees from eight universities. She was the 2014 recipient of the Queen’s University Alumni Humanitarian Award. In October 2016, she received the inaugural Margaret Trudeau Award for Mental Health Advocacy in recognition of speaking nationally about her own relationship with depression. Shelagh is the 11th Chancellor of the University of Victoria and was renewed for a second three-year term in 2018.
Rebekah is a 4th student at the University of Toronto pursuing a double major in History and Russian Language & Literature. She has worked as the assistant to the director of the Hart House Global Commons, a student initiative to participate in a real-time dialogue with students located at international partner institutions, including Bogotá, Colombia and Cape Town, South Africa. Rebekah recently worked as a coordinator for the Youth International English Program at New College. It is a program designed for students from around the world to be immersed in cross-cultural experiences and to study English.
She enjoys playing volleyball, and last spring received the Team Leadership Award while serving as captain for her intramural team on campus. She is interested in connecting with people and listening to their stories and hopes to possibly pursue a career in journalism following her completion of university.
Rebekah Robinson was a highly engaged student leader at Hart House for the four years of her undergraduate studies. She helped to develop both the Hart House Global Commonsand the House’s burgeoning podcasting program. Rebekah has a talent for taking on difficult topics with dignity and respect and working to highlight marginalized voices.
Vincent Wong is an Adjunct Professor and the William C. Graham Research Associate at the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. He leads the Media Freedom Model Laws Project at the law school. Vincent was previously Staff Lawyer and Interim Clinic Director at the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, where he litigated and provided advocacy in the areas of migrant rights, sex worker rights, housing, social assistance, mental health, employment standards, and police accountability.
Most recently, he was a James Kent Scholar and Human Rights Fellow at Columbia Law School, where he worked as a Research Assistant at the African American Policy Forum and researched the impact of conflict and military occupation on youth education in Kashmir for the CLS Human Rights Clinic.
Emily Chu is a fourth-year student at the University of Toronto studying International Relations, Political Science, and American Studies. Emily is the President of the Association of Political Science Students, a course union representing one of the largest Political Science undergraduate cohorts in Canada. She is also the Chair of the Trinity College Meeting, Trinity’s direct democracy student government. She is also involved with the Undergraduate Journal of American Studies, serving as Co-Editor-in-Chief.
During her summers, Emily was a Political/Economic Intern at the U.S. Consulate General in Toronto, and most recently travelled to Washington, D.C. for a Trade Policy internship at the Embassy of Canada.
Outside of school, Emily enjoys catching up with friends over drinks, arguing about music, and is an avid fan of the NBA.