As current advocates for human rights, it is important that we remember those before us that have dedicated their lives to fighting for advancing freedom, human rights and democracy. In the fight for human rights, any activity is impactful, but there are some whose influences fundamentally affect the depth of change. Max Kampelman was one of these influential and inspirational figures.
Kampelman’s human rights career began during WWII when, as a conscientious objector, he volunteered to be in starvation experiments so that he could better understand the recovery process and help others with a lack of nutrition. He went on to become a lawyer and a diplomat, working to ensure safe emigration of the Soviet Jews from the Soviet Union and leading arms negotiations with the USSR. In addition, he was appointed Ambassador t0 the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe, and served this post from 1980-1983. Other accomplishments included holding prominent positions at the think-tank Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya, and the defense policy institute Committee on the Present Danger.
Despite his intimate involvement in such grave political issues, he bridged American political parties and was trusted by both Republicans and Democrats. Over the course of his career, Kampelman was awarded the two highest civilian honors: the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Reagan in 1989, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Clinton in 1999.
Kampelman recently passed away on January 25 at age 92. His work and life is an example for not only the Claremont community, but also the world at large. Although many ambitious college students dream of becoming an elected official, or even President, Kampelman demonstrates how much impact one can have without such positions. It is important that we remember that there is no “right” way to change the world. A steadfast devotion can carry you far, and his passion and devotion will be missed.
-Claire Peterson, CMC ’14