In a global society filled with suffering from growing violence, many people wonder what can be done to make a difference; however, few dedicate their lives to the betterment of this world. Carol Bellamy has gone above and beyond the typical call of duty and has dedicated herself to people around the world who are less fortunate. Having served as the president of UNICEF
for ten years is only one of her many accomplishments. She has been able to change the lives of thousands of people around the world, and her hard work and efforts make her eligible for an honorary degree from the University of Southern California
. One of the main criteria for awarding an honorary degree
at USC is “to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or on the national or world scene.” Because of her stunning successes and immense dedication, it is my strong recommendation that Carol Bellamy receive an honorary degree in humane letters for her outstanding success at USC.
An honorary degree given by a university is a tradition that has taken place for an extensive period of time. According to James O. Freedman in Liberal Education and the Public Interest, these degrees should be given to people with “intellectual distinction and public service”. Carol Bellamy is the perfect example of someone with these two qualities. She is an inventive thinker, an ethically grounded public servant, and a persuasive leader who devotes herself to improving society. Her work with UNICEF is a prime example of these two qualities. Having served as the director for ten years, Ms. Bellamy made significant changes in the organization and helped it achieve some of its goals. At her final press briefing at the UN headquarters in 2005, she summarized some of the changes that occurred during her ten year tenure at the organization. She was quoted saying that the, “global child mortality dropped by 16 percent in the last ten years – and 34 percent if sub-Saharan Africa is excluded.” Diarrhea was one of her main concerns; she felt that deaths from diarrhea needed to be avoided. Also announced at the press conference, the deaths from it fell by half and measles deaths declined by more than a third since 1999. These are statistics mark strong progress in the improvement of the lives of children all over the world, and while Ms. Bellamy and UNICEF cannot be granted credit for all of it, their projects and outreach did develop and expand in her tenure there. Always striving to achieve more, Ms. Bellamy was quoted as saying, “I am the first to say that I wish we had accomplished more for children over the past ten years.” Her attitude truly embodies Freedman’s emphasis on intellectual distinction and public service.
There are several reasons that Ms. Bellamy is an opportune candidate for an honorary degree at USC specifically. In the university’s Role and Mission, it states that “[USC is] a global institution in a global center, attracting more international students over the years than any other American University.” What better candidate than someone who has worked all over the world? She has extended her efforts internationally. Ms. Bellamy’s international efforts do not stop at the dozens of countries that she worked in with UNICEF. Prior to her work there, she was appointed as the director of the Peace Corps by President Bill Clinton in 1993. She was the first person to become director after having been a former volunteer, having served in Guatemala in the 1960s. Since her tenure at UNICEF ended in 2005, Ms. Bellamy has been serving as the CEO and President of a private nonprofit organization known as World Learning. President and Dean of the Vermont Law School, Geoffrey B. Shields comments, “For decades, Carol Bellamy has been a leading advocate for the issues of those most in need of legal protection–children, women, the disabled, and the poor. Her extraordinary career demonstrates exemplary service and commitment to global progress.” In the USC criteria for the honorary degrees, one of them states that the degree serves “to honor alumni and other individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part.” So considering USC is dedicated to its international communities, she is in turn serving the communities that USC is a part of.
Ms. Bellamy’s dedication to education internationally, also embodies USC’s Role and Mission, which stresses the “development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit.” Not only does Ms. Bellamy embody this cultivation and enrichment herself, but she also strives to help others, mostly children around the world, embody it as well. By empowering youth with the tools they need to survive, she hopes to be making long-term change. At her final press conference in her career with UNICEF, it was announced the number of children out of school was reduced to fewer than 100 million for the first time. Child survival, child protection and girls’ education are areas, Bellamy said, UNICEF had made progress but that there was still work to be done to achieve the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. Her stress on education is shown through this statement, “It is my most central conviction from ten years at UNICEF that nothing will turn the tide against poverty the way that education can, especially for girls. There is no more sure an investment for nations than investment in a quality basic education for all boys and girls.”
Considering her experiences, Ms. Bellamy’s address to the University students would no doubt be inspirational. Having served in the New York State Senate for five years, and then becoming the first woman to be elected President of the New York City Council from 1978 to 1985, she is equipped to deal with both national and international perspectives. A perfect theme for her to move off of would reflect her dynamic global experiences while also touching on the subject of the Trojan family. A valued tradition at USC, the notion of community and family is a concept she could incorporate. Since the university is so international, her speech could focus on students going out to expand the Trojan family across borders. By Trojans going out into the international community and giving back, the network of people affected by the students of a university in Southern California, would grow exponentially. If Ms. Bellamy examined the Code of Ethics at USC, she would find that a point that is stressed is that “respecting the rights and dignity of others.” She has done this and more, and it is crucial for graduating students to take this part of the code and apply it in their lives moving forward.
It is difficult to imagine that many would be opposed to Ms. Bellamy as a potential recipient of an honorary degree from USC; however, it is rare to find someone who will be completely unopposed or without concern. Therefore, there are two potential problems that can be anticipated by her possible nomination. First, since USC is such a prestigious institution, some may claim that a more prominent figure is necessary. Ms. Bellamy does not have a common household name that people are likely to be familiar with. This may irritate some on the selections committee or in the administration. As Freedman says, in choosing an honorand a university might “desire to flatter generous donors and prospective benefactors.” To counter that notion, in the criteria of the honorary degree, it states that it aims to, “to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public.” So since it is now clear that Ms. Bellamy has distinguished herself through her scope of work and dedication, her public recognition should not be important. USC has a heritage of entrepreneurial spirit; Marshall Business School is ranked as one of the best in the country. However, as stated in the Role and Mission of USC, “The principal means by which our mission is accomplished are teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice and selected forms of public service.” Her work encompasses teaching, professional practice, as well as public service. This means she embodies a significant part of what USC prides itself on.
Carol Bellamy’s work is beyond worthy of an honorary degree. And although it is up to the university to decide, it is clear that it would be USC’s loss to not award someone as accomplished as her. Mike W. Martin states in Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics, that “sincere commitment to improving community safety, alleviating suffering, pursuing justice, or promoting informed citizenry implies affirming the virtues of caring, compassion, justice, and rationality.” He says that it is highly unlikely for people to implement these ideals of character in their work; however, it is obvious that Ms. Bellamy has come significantly close to accomplishing all of those qualities. As the university moves towards a decision, I urge them to consider the benefits of awarding someone so philanthropic and so dedicated to others.