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April 15, 2000

In recognition of Earth Day and sponsored by the Vassar Greens, environmental activist and lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. lectured in the Chapel on “Our Environmental Destiny.” The chief prosecuting attorney since 1984 for Riverkeeper—formerly the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association (HRFA)—Kennedy co-authored The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right (1999) with John Cronin, a former commercial fisherman and since 1983 the HRFA’s first official Riverkeeper. In 1999, Kennedy became head of The National Alliance of River, Sound and Baykeepers, subsequently the Waterkeepers Alliance. He also served as clinical professor and supervising attorney at the Environmental Litigation Clinic at the Pace University School of Law.

“I love my job,” Kennedy told his large audience of students, visitors and (as the event was part of Parents Weekend) Vassar parents. “I love going out on the river with the fishermen, fighting the bad guys, working with the students.” Praising recent protests at the meeting in Seattle of the World Trade Organization, Kennedy rejected the alleged conflict between environmental and commercial concerns. “If you ask people on Capitol Hill why are you doing this,” he said, “they say the time has come to choose between economic prosperity and environmental protection. That is a false choice.”

“Kennedy talked about the role of nature in American idealism, literature, art and religion,” Kate Eickmeyer ‘03 reported in The Miscellany News. “He emphasized the importance of protecting the environment for the sake of future generations.” Greens member Kate Bedient ’01 appreciated the range of Kennedy’s remarks. “What impressed me most about RFK, Jr.,” she said, “was that during his talk he managed to mention a handful of the world’s most famous authors, list off prestigious poets, describe the works of numerous painters and recall the history of the world’s largest religions, while never losing his place or even glancing at a notecard.”

The Miscellany News

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