While addressing a group of South African students, the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Social justice was a principle near and dear to the former Senator and something he strove to achieve throughout his adult life. He spoke and worked with minority groups, including the South African students aforementioned, furthering their mission of achieving equal rights. He also championed the Civil Rights Movement alongside his famous brother, President John F. Kennedy. After his untimely death, activists around the world strove to carry out his legacy and mission. So, in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights was born.
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is a diverse organization. Its members are writers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, businessmen and more, all of whom are committed to social justice. The team has worked alongside social activists to create positive, lasting change in government and businesses. In the United States and abroad, the programs developed by the organization have helped to educate students on human rights, persuade litigation on key human rights issues and foster a socially appropriate approach to business and investment. Some of these programs include Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Emergency Bail Out Action, which provides bail to secure the release of people held in pretrial detention, and Speak Truth to Power, which helps to educate students about human rights while preventing violations through storytelling and interactive learning.
Smith’s Commitment to Human Rights
For decades, Robert F. Smith has been a champion of equality and social justice, increasing economic and educational opportunities for underrepresented groups. Because of his philanthropic efforts, he was recognized by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and was honored with their prestigious Ripple of Hope Award in 2010. In 2013, he joined the board, becoming Chairman of the organization.
Over the years Smith has chaired the board, he has welcomed many new members, including eight new board members in 2020, all of whom embody the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy. “We’re delighted to announce our latest board members, accomplished leaders who recognize the need for social justice and are bold enough to partner with us on the front lines,” stated Smith.
Outside of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Smith continues to further the efforts of the organization through his charitable actions. For example, in May 2017, he signed the Giving Pledge and was the first African American to do so, committing to donate half of his net worth during his lifetime to worthwhile causes, especially those that expand opportunities for minority groups. He also generously committed $34 million to pay off the student loan debt of the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.
In addition to donations, Smith has also created new philanthropic organizations. He is the founding director and President of the Fund II Foundation, which works to expand opportunities for African Americans and other underrepresented groups. Recently, Smith, together with Fund II Foundation, launched the Student Freedom Initiative to help minority students, offering an alternative to traditional student loans. Because of his work, Smith was honored with another recognition, the Robert F. Kennedy Prize, in September 2020 at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s 20th Annual A. Leon Higginbotham Corporate Leadership Award Event.
Learn more about how Robert F. Smith embodies the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy through his charitable works.