environmental and human rights advocate to headline UC Berkeley
Charter Day ceremony
José Rodríguez, Development Communications
here to link to the Charter Day Web site
A 29-year-old Burmese exile recognized as one of the world's
most effective advocates for the environment and human rights
will headline the University of California, Berkeley's annual
Charter Day ceremony.
ceremony, which honors the founding of the University of California,
will be held next Thursday, March 23, at Zellerbach Auditorium.
The public and the UC Berkeley community is invited to attend
the free event, but tickets must be obtained in advance from
the Cal Performances Box Office at Zellerbach Hall.
speaker Ka Hsaw Wa was arrested and tortured by the Burmese
military regime and subsequently won acclaim as a defender of
the Southeast Asian rain forest and its native inhabitants.
fleeing Burma, the activist took on the name Ka Hsaw Wa, which
means "White Elephant" in Burmese. The white elephant
is an ancient, indigenous symbol associated with benevolent
leadership and respect for all people.
1999, Ka Hsaw Wa won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize
for casting the spotlight on abuses by the military government
of Burma and the exploitation of the natural environment. In
1995, he co-founded EarthRights International, based in Washington,
D.C., which documents abuses by the dictatorship and works to
educate indigenous communities at the grassroots level in Southeast
Asia and the general public worldwide.
a landmark U.S. District Court ruling in 1997, EarthRights International
succeeded in blocking the Yadana gas pipeline project - the
largest foreign investment in Burma. It would have traversed
rain forest, inhabited by diverse ethnic peoples and home to
the tiger, the Asian elephant, the rhinoceros, and many other
rare and endangered species.
pipeline was backed by a consortium of transnational corporations,
including U.S.-based Unocal. The historic ruling was the first
by a U.S. judge over a private company for alleged human rights
abuses committed abroad.
Hsaw Wa's speech at UC Berkeley will highlight Charter Day,
the 132nd anniversary of the signing of the legislative act
creating the University of California. Chancellor Robert M.
Berdahl will preside at the ceremony, which will also feature
the presentation to alumni of two major UC Berkeley awards:
the Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award and the Peter
E. Haas International Award.
Haas International Award honors a UC Berkeley alumnus who has
achieved distinction in his or her work abroad; winners must
be natives and residents of a foreign country. This year's recipient
is Urvashi Sahni, an educator and leader in efforts to reform
schools in India. She received her PhD from UC Berkeley in 1994.
educational reforms have had greatest impact in her native state
of Uttar Pradesh, where she has served as a consultant to the
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF). She received her doctoral
degree from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education.
year marks the inaugural of a new UC Berkeley prize - the Peter
E. Haas Public Service Award - that honors an alumnus who has
contributed significantly to his or her local community. The
first recipient of this award is Dwight Steele, who obtained
his undergraduate degree in 1935 and his law degree in 1939
from UC Berkeley.
the 1960s, Steele has worked as a volunteer for a variety of
environmental and planning efforts. Most notably, he worked
to stop the filling of San Francisco Bay in the 1960s by helping
to establish the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
He also has worked to preserve and protect the natural resources
and beauty of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada.
Charter Day ceremony, which will run from 10:30 a.m. to noon,
features a procession by faculty, staff, students and alumni
of UC Berkeley, as well as music by the California Marching
March 23, 1868, Governor Henry H. Haight signed an act into
law that established the University of California as a public
trust, tying the health and future of the state with that of
the university. The act paved the way for excellence in higher
education in California.
Day has been celebrated every year at UC Berkeley since 1874,
when UC President Daniel Coit Gilman first declared it a UC