Human Rights Activist to Speak September 25

September 9, 2009

Father Roy Bourgeois, human rights activist and founder of School of the Americas Watch, will speak at Hartwick College at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 25 in the Anderson Center for the Arts Theatre. The title of his lecture is “Torture, Ethics, Human Rights, and the U.S. School of the Americas.” The event is free and open to the public.

School of the Americas Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas through vigils, fasts, demonstrations and non-violent protests, as well as media and legislative efforts.

Fr. Bourgeois was born in Lutcher, Louisiana in 1938. He graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with a Bachelor of Science degree in geology, and subsequently served four years as a US Naval Officer, receiving a purple heart for his service. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1972, and went on to work with the poor of Bolivia for five years before being arrested and forced to leave the country, then under the repressive rule of dictator and SOA grad General Hugo Banzer.

In 1980 Fr. Bourgeois became involved in issues surrounding US policy in El Salvador after four US churchwomen--two of them his friends--were raped and killed by Salvadoran soldiers. Roy became an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America. Since then, he has spent over four years in US federal prisons for nonviolent protests against the training of Latin American soldiers at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

In 1990, he founded the School of Americas Watch, an office that does research on the US Army School of the Americas (SOA), now renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC, at Fort Benning, GA. Each year the school trains hundreds of soldiers from Latin America in combat skills.

He was the recipient of the 1997 Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Award. Since 1999 he has travelled and spoken extensively on human rights issues.

Bourgeois’ talk is sponsored by the Hartwick College departments of Sociology, Political Science, History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. For additional information, contact Professor of Sociology Kate O’Donnell at 607-431-4894 or .