The Belmont University College of Law presented its second Champions for Justice Award Wednesday to Gary Haugen, the president and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM), an organization which secures justice for victims of slavery and sexual exploitation. The award is presented to a person who exemplifies Belmont’s mission to uphold Jesus as the Christ and the measure for all things, and has lived this out by engaging and transforming the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith.
After accepting the award from Belmont President Bob Fisher and College of Law Dean Jeff Kinsler, Haugen gave a brief lecture and led a question-and-answer session in a room filled with a cross section of campus, including College of Law students, faculty and staff as well as Belmont IJM chapter members. “I can’t think of a more extraordinary opportunity than to shape and develop your own law school,” he said. “I am grateful to be here to be a part of it.”
Haugen then focused his remarks on encouraging the law students to do something he rarely witnesses among his friends who are attorneys: “I would like to urge you to enjoy your life, to relentlessly and uncompromisingly enjoy your life.”
Noting that such joy is possible but not inevitable, he asked the students to ponder what forces can destroy joy, including fear, exhaustion and lack of purpose. “Make your work in the law connect to things that matter to the satisfaction of your own soul,” Haugen said. “There are places in the world where people die if the lawyers don’t show up. In such desperate places, it turns out that lawyers desperately matter.”
Quoting information from the United Nations, Haugen argued that most of the world’s poor live outside the protection of law, and that Belmont College of Law students have a unique opportunity to shape their education to be about purpose and meaning and protecting those most in need. “As you run after joy, you run after purpose.”
Haugen has degrees from Harvard and the University of Chicago. He served as the Officer in Charge of the U.N.’s genocide investigation in Rwanda and on the executive committee of the National Initiative for Reconciliation in South Africa, a movement of Christian leaders devoted to the cause of political reform and racial reconciliation. In 2012, Mr. Haugen was honored with the “Trafficking in Persons Hero Award” – the U.S. State Department’s highest honor for leadership in the fight against human trafficking. He is the author of the books Good News About Injustice, Just Courage and Terrify No More.
The College of Law’s first Champions for Justice Award was presented in January 2010 to Rev. Fred Gray, a minister for six decades who also served as the attorney for Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was the lead attorney for the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.