Amy Goodman, best-selling author and host of Democracy Now!, recounted her actions in East Timor during a 1991 demonstration for independence as she encouraged those attending the Spring 2010 Daniel Thursz Social Justice Lecture to engage in their own worthy causes. She addressed students, faculty and guests gathered April 16 at the University of Maryland School of Social Work (SSW) on the role of independent media in promoting social justice.
Calling the Indonesian repression of the people of Timor starting in 1975 "one of the greatest genocides of the 20th century," Goodman said she showed her tape recorder to the troops and shouted, "We're from America" as she attempted to document a protest at a cemetery. Yet she and another journalist found their lives at risk, and her colleague suffered a serious head wound before they escaped on Nov. 12, 1991. He was writing a magazine article for the New Yorker; she was doing a documentary for Pacifica Radio.
"We live in a globalized world but it's so difficult to get information," she said, explaining her travels to serve as a witness. In her speech, she referred to her 2009 book, Breaking the Sound Barrier, a collection of essays from "the streets and the suites" that is intended to bring forth voices that would otherwise go unheard.
One in a continuing series of social justice lectures, Goodman's appearance was in honor of Daniel Thursz, PhD, MSW, who died in 2000 after a multi-faceted career that included serving as SSW dean from 1966 to 1976. For a decade after that he was executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International and became Director of the Center on Global Aging of Catholic University.
His wife, Hadassah Thursz, attended the lecture. She was welcomed by Michael Reisch, PhD, MSW, MA, who is the Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice. He said the former dean's presence "continues to be reflected in the school's long-standing commitment to integrating a social justice approach into its research, teaching and service missions."
In her speech, Goodman also paid tribute to a plucky social worker - her mother, telling of her family's vigil as the elderly woman neared death in a hospital in Baltimore. Goodman counseled her audience to remember that at such moments, it is important to say five things: "Thank you. Forgive me. I forgive you. I love you. Goodbye."
Many attendees expressed their admiration for Goodman, whose program can be found on more than 800 public television/radio stations and online at democracynow.org. "To know that she is the daughter of a social worker really demonstrates how the important values and messages of civil rights and social justice get passed on through the generations," wrote Deborah Gioia, PhD, an associate professor at the SSW, stating appreciation of the event in a note to Reisch.
Reisch commented on the contribution of independent media, noting that while all truths are subjective, what the dominant media presents as "objective truths" frequently masks painful realities about injustice. By contrast, journalists in independent media take their "mediating" role seriously, he said. "More than nearly anyone else, Amy Goodman takes this role to another level through her integrity, insights, and courage, In so doing, she makes us realize the roles we can play - big and small - in pursing the goal of social justice, and underscores the risks involved in remaining true to our professed mission and values."