Penn State heard from a world leader when Mary Robinson , the former Irish president gave a lecture in the Eisenhower Auditorium last night.
Robinson’s lecture was titled “The Future of Ethical Leadership in a Global Society.”
The Schreyer Honors College , the Presidential Leadership Academy , the Student Programming Association and the University Park Allocations Committee jointly sponsored the lecture.
Robinson, the first female president of Ireland , was elected in 1990 and served until 1997. Shortly before her term ended, Robinson resigned and took a position as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights . Robinson is also a member of the Elders, a group of world leaders dedicated to advancing human rights.
Before her time as president, Robinson said she spent 25 years in the Irish senate.
During her time in the senate, Robinson said early in her career, she was involved with controversial legislation. She said the backlash she received from the community initially upset her, but took it as a learning experience.
“If you really feel strongly about something, be prepared to pay the price, be prepared to be unpopular,” she said.
Other members of the Elders include Desmond Tutu , Kofi Annan and Jimmy Carter . The group works to promote “peace and human rights” according to their website.
Prior to the lecture Robinson gave a press conference where she answered questions pertaining to ethical leadership and climate change.
Robinson said she was able to spend time with several groups of students during her time on campus, calling Penn State students “very bright and engaged.”
Robinson spoke of her approach to climate change. She said she feels there must be a “more human centered approach to the serious issue of climate change, which is undermining development in poor countries.”
Robinson said she wanted students attending her lecture to walk away feeling “encouraged that everyone can make a difference.”
Robinson’s lecture, which began around 8 p.m. garnered a large showing of both students and community members.
Robinson was introduced by Christian Brady , dean of the Schreyer Honors College, who said the former president “spent her life serving as a role model.”
Robinson’s lecture drew heavily on her personal experiences in politics and advocacy, and she incorporated several anecdotes into her presentation.
Robinson said her interest in human rights began in her home life at an early age.
“Of course I had to be interested in human rights,” Robinson said, noting she grew up with four brothers.
Robinson also said her parents always gave her the idea that she was as equally entitled as her brothers, a sentiment that was not widespread in western Ireland during her childhood.
Robinson’s message especially resonated with one attendee. Melissa Halpin said she most enjoyed one of Robinson’s stories about her presidency.
During her term, Robinson said she placed a light in the window of her home to connect with the Irish people.
Halpin (freshman-secondary education earth and space science) said she identified with Robinson’s story because she is of Irish descent.
“That’s my family. That kind of hit home, especially since I went with my mother,” she said.
Halpin said she enjoyed the lecture and Robinson’s insight.
“It was worth the hour our two we gave to her,” she said.