Civil rights icons speak at women’s conference

Civil rights icons Andrew Young and Ruby Bridges called on women leaders to draw on experiences from the civil rights movement to combat human rights violations around the world.

Former U.N. Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Young, speaking at the International Women’s Forum World Leadership Conference in Atlanta, invoked a message from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“In order to be free, you have to conquer the love of money and the fear of death,” Young said Wednesday at a conference reception at the National Center for Civil & Human Rights. “If you don’t love money, they can’t buy you off. And if you’re not afraid of death, they can’t scare you off.”

Ruby Bridges, who made history in 1960 at the age of 6 as the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans, said, “As African-Americans, we knew that if we wanted to see change, we had to step up to the plate, and that’s exactly what we have to do as women today.”

Bridges, who spoke at the conference Thursday at the InterContinental Buckhead hotel, is the founder of the Ruby Bridges Foundation. She speaks to students in schools across the country.

The conference, a gathering of some 700 women leaders from 30 countries, continues through Friday.

During a panel discussion Thursday on companies’ role in promoting human rights and responsibilities, business leaders discussed how global corporations can encourage diversity in countries with different cultural values.

They also commented on the interplay of corporate social responsibility and long-term profitability.

“I don’t think it’s an either-or at all,” said Microsoft senior director of corporate citizenship Dan Bross. He said Microsoft “has a responsibility to protect the human rights of our users,” including their privacy and data security. And he said investing in education helps to train potential talent.

“I would like these issues [of social responsibility] that we’re talking about to come up on our quarterly earnings calls,” Bross said.

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