everybody-matters[1]

Everybody matters– how do we  live up to those words.?

That precept is not only the title of Mary Robinson’s  autobiography, but also the core conviction that has guided virtually every step of her life on the world stage.

By any measure, Mary Robinson is a remarkable public servant and humanitarian.  She was the first woman president of Ireland, from 1990 to 1997, and then served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 to 2002.  The honorary president of Oxfam International since 2002, she has devoted herself to championing many good  causes. She is also a member of the Elders, global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela.  Her unstinting humanitarian work has garnered her the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Indira Gandhi and Sydney Peace Prizes.

In Everybody Matters, Robinson, who lives with her husband, Nick Robinson, in Dublin and Mayo, vividly and forthrightly recounts her own life and her struggle to make the world a fairer, more humane place through tireless, relentless advocacy of human rights.  Robinson, unlike most who write their “true” story, does not cast herself in a hazy hagiography of good deeds and self-serving triumphs.  To the contrary, the reader always gets the strong sense that no matter how many human-rights successes she has spearheaded, she believes she has barely scratched the proverbial surface.  The book’s clear, skillful prose gently exhorts one to believe that he or she can make a difference in ways great or small.

In rendering her life, Robinson also shows a deft narrative hand. Robinson was born in 1944, the only girl among five children in a devout Catholic family.  At first, she considered becoming a nun; instead, she went on to become a lawyer and activist who assailed entrenched unjustness and inhumanity – whether it lay in government, politics, or even the Catholic Church, as well as her own family.  As a dogged and brilliant lawyer, she won milestone civil-rights cases for women, the poor, gays, and minorities; in two decades in the Irish Senate, she was a progressive voice against traditional prejudices and outdated laws.  Taking on the Church, she helped legalize contraception, illegal without a prescription in Ireland until 1985. In 1990, she stunned the Irish political establishment by winning election as the nation’s first woman president.

Everybody Matters provides a riveting, thought-provoking, and introspective yet worldly examination of a remarkable woman and her life, but always in a way that shows that the author’s foremost concern remains those who suffer across the globe.

I think this is an important book because of the wisdom that emerges out of wise and humane self refection.  Many in power would do well to follow her example.

Everybody Matters is that rarest of memoirs –  and shows us that it really  does matter.

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