Amnesty International Conference Impacts Oglethorpe Students

Pictured: Oglethorpe University students Anna Ethridge '14, Keturah Thomas '13, Tirzah Brown '14, and Ashley Causey '14 at the Amnesty International Conference.

On the weekend of November 4-6, Ashley Causey ’14, Tirzah Brown ’14, Keturah Thomas ’13, and I all lugged our (overly-packed) luggage and our Oglethorpian minds up to Charlotte, N.C. for the 2011 Amnesty International Southern Regional Conference. Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 3 million people, in more than 150 countries, who fight injustices and advocate for human rights all around the world.

The organization uses a three-prong strategy to fight for human rights: (1) public education, (2) state work, and (3) case work. The vision is for every person to enjoy all the rights preserved in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which are rights that are often denied more than we realize. Some of the issues that Amnesty advocates for include, but are not limited to LGBTQ rights, the abolition of the death penalty, human trafficking, environmental  issues, torture in Guantanamo Bay, controlling arms, immigration rights, and issues in Syria, China, Nicaragua, the Middle East, and North Africa, just to name a few.

With multiple workshops to choose from, Ashley, Tirzah, Keturah and I thrived off of the abundant information that was presented in each workshop. We all decided it was best to attend workshops that presented on issues we knew little about, which proved to be a successful learning experience. This conference was a life (and mind)-changing experience for me. This experience gave me that “boost” of motivation that I so greatly needed to start advocating and educating people on the many injustices that engulf society every day. 

Out of all of the workshops and events that I attended, (including the Troy Davis Vigil and plenaries on human trafficking, queer liberation, undocumented youth, and more), the Closing Brunch Plenary impacted me the most. During brunch on the last day of the conference, two advocates against the death penalty spoke about their own personal experiences with the criminal justice system, and why and how we can make an impact against the injustices that violate human rights everywhere. Troy Davis’s nephew, De’Jaun Correia, only 17 years old, spoke about the execution of his uncle and how it impacted him. He was recently named one of the Top 25 Youth that will change the world. Rais Bhuiyan also spoke. He is a Bangladeshi American who was shot by Mark Stroman, who told police that he was “hunting Arabs” after the attacks on 9/11. Rais was saved from brain damage, but lost sight in one eye. He appealed to save Stroman from the death penalty.

These two speakers had a huge impact on me and really made me realize what we, as an organization, are really fighting for. We’re not fighting to change institutions, or even to change people’s minds about the most effective form of punishment, we are really fighting to eliminate hate. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

Oglethorpe’s First Lady a Guest on the Martha Stewart Show

It’s not unusual to hear about people giving their time and fortune around December. For Betty Londergan (also known around OU as President Schall’s wife), giving has literally been an everyday thing for almost a year in 2010.

An author and active community member, Betty made local and national headlines with her “What Gives? 365” blog project, a year-long effort in which she donates $100 a day to a different organization or person doing good work in the community.  Each day she hits her blog to express why she thinks the cause is worthy of support and encouraging others to do the same.

Betty Londergan with Project Compassion founder Kaziah Hancock at an Oglethorpe University event. "What Gives? 365" gave $100 to Project Compassion in September.

Her blog garnered national attention in USA Today and Huffington Post and was featured in Whole Living magazine, and she appeared on the Martha Stewart Show in an episode that will spotlight charitable organizations, philanthropists, and giving.

By the end of 2010, Betty donated a grand total of $36,500—funded through a small inheritance she received from her father. On her blog, Betty reveals that her parents were incredible savers but also passionate givers and thinks that her mother would have approved. “Dorothy Mae would love that and say that it’s about time I stopped buying so many darn shoes and did something for others.”

After weathering some financial storms of her own, the old adage, ’putting your money where your mouth is’ took on new meaning. “Giving away money is the absolute antidote to fear and insecurity about money,” Betty said in the Whole Living article. ”Desire and clutching cause suffering—and when you let go, it’s a beautiful thing.”

Tune in to the Hallmark Channel on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. to see Betty chat with Martha Stewart!