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Martin Edwin AndersenBy Martin Edwin Andersen
First created
Martin Edwin AndersenBy Martin Edwin Andersen
First created
$3,436
pledged of $36,000pledged of $36,000 goal
33
backers
0seconds to go
Funding Unsuccessful
The project's funding goal was not reached on Tue, March 17 2015 4:04 AM UTC +00:00

About

President Jimmy Carter at the swearing in of Patt Derian as the first assistant secretary of state for human rights.
President Jimmy Carter at the swearing in of Patt Derian as the first assistant secretary of state for human rights.

OVERVIEW

In the wake of the torture scandals and new terrorist threats in France and elsewhere, as we face questions unprecedented in this century about who we are as a nation, this project will help us rediscover our true character and remind us of the ways in which we have changed the world for the better. A modern Eleanor Roosevelt (the chair of the drafting committee of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights), Patricia Murphy Derian was a hero of the U.S. civil and human rights movements who often fearlessly confronted great physical risk in her work at home and abroad. Patt served as President Jimmy Carter's Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from 1977 to 1981.

Her biography, tentatively called Healing Crusader: Patt Derian on the Arc of Civil and Human Rights, focuses on who Patt was, the trials she faced, the significant and lasting contributions she made inside a male-dominated and stultified bureaucracy, and important lessons that were critically learned and became an essential part of the fabric of international diplomatic practice.  As Patt Derian nears the end of her long and glorious life, I am seeking funding to complete in 2016 a book on her life and example.

* * * * *

The funeral of murdered Mississippi civil rights champion Medgar Evers
The funeral of murdered Mississippi civil rights champion Medgar Evers

Late one hot June night in 1963, just after President John F. Kennedy had addressed the nation on television about making civil rights a reality in the United States, its most important Mississippi exponent, 38-year-old Medgar Evers, was turning into his driveway with his family inside their home. A rifle shot rang out and Evers, hit in the back, staggered some 30 feet before collapsing and being taken to the local hospital in segregated Jackson. Finally, when authorities realized who he was after initially refusing him treatment, Evers was admitted to the facility, where he died 50 minutes later. That morning a young white nurse and civil rights activist arrived on the blood-spattered yard to comfort Ever’s wife and small children. Her name was Patt Derian.

Fourteen years later, President Carter appointed Patt Derian as the State Department's point person for the human rights revolution he announced as a presidential candidate during the 1976 American bicentennial. Shortly after Carter took office, Patt sat in front of an impeccably-groomed Argentine Admiral, Emilio Massera, at the ESMA navy mechanics school on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. A year before Massera and others in the military junta had overthrown that country’s troubled democracy, and—after being given a “green light” by the United States for a campaign that resulted in the secret disappearance, torture and death of thousands of people--he tried to conduct a face-to-face charm offensive with Derian. Patt looked back at him and said evenly, “I know you are torturing people in this building.” Massera denied it. She replied: “Right now, below us, I know people are being mistreated.” Massera parried: “There’s nothing down there, this is a school.” To which Patt replied, “I have a map. I know what is happening in every room.” Rubbing his hands in what Patt later called “one of the most eeire moments of my life,” Massera responded: “You remember the story of Pontius Pilate?” Later it was revealed that more than 5,000 “disappeared” people were eventually tortured and murdered at the school, one of hundreds of secret concentration camps around Argentina.

* * * * *

Captain General Augusto Pinochet with Henry Kissinger in Chile, where the Secretary of State gave a "green light" for the Argentine massacre (Archivo General Histórico del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores)
Captain General Augusto Pinochet with Henry Kissinger in Chile, where the Secretary of State gave a "green light" for the Argentine massacre (Archivo General Histórico del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores)

Healing Crusader will be based on hundreds of interviews and oral histories both in the United States and overseas, as well as scholarly studies, archival material, and declassified Federal and state documents.

This work has been a long time in the making; the project is completely self-funded. It comes nearly four decades after Patt stared down Argentina’s generals and others like them around the world who claimed to be American friends, but trample on their own peoples and the values Americans hold dear. 

Today there is again a critical need to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of U.S. foreign policy, in order to liberate ourselves in our Founding Fathers' tradition. Patt's example is a beacon lighting the way.

Please join us in becoming a part of the Healing Crusader campaign.

BACKGROUND

The Carter foreign policy focused attention on the importance of the rule of law and the principles of self determination for all peoples. Before being named by President Carter as the coordinator for human rights and humanitarian affairs at the State Department, Patt was admired for work in segregationist Mississippi on civil rights, and more nationally on civil liberties, including having an important role in the work of the American Civil Liberties Union. At State, although she had no prior foreign policy experience, Patt’s unconventional style proved to be key in making human rights a critical factor in the external relations of a country whose reputation was scarred overseas by often violent domestic unrest, the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam war.

After Congress elevated her position to Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Patt came to symbolize the new understanding about how the domestic and international faces of human rights were connected. Her work and that of the talented staff she put together in the face of fierce internal opposition assured that Carter’s public re-commitment to American values reestablished the country’s sense of national purpose and gave the highly-publicized shift in emphasis sure and permanent footing in policy debates across the federal government.

Patt’s experiences not only in Argentina, but also with the Soviet Union and its allies and "friends of the United States" dictatorships like those of South Korea, Chile, El Salvador, Uganda and the Philippines, served as a reminder of the good that came from telling truth to power and fighting to make a difference.

El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered in 1980 by death squads.
El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero was murdered in 1980 by death squads.

ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED

Having kept extensive files on human rights and nation building over the past three decades, I have long thought about doing Patt’s biography. Critical resources now available include hundreds of oral histories, archival collections of personal papers, and scores of books that detail Patt’s myriad contributions both at home and abroad. Dismissed by many inside the State Department as a “movement” person, as a role model Patt showed how to breach the supposed disjuncture between responsibility and respectability.

The biography of one of the most interesting and authentic lives to grace the policy salons of the world’s longest-lasting democracy has yet to be written. Meanwhile, the terrible legacy that comes with promoting torture and other human rights abuses is again under the microscope, as today’s war against terrorism has called into question American values and well as government tactics. Some Native American tribes have no verb “to learn;” the closest to it is “to stand by.” Those of us who were privileged enough to stand by Patt now have an obligation to share those lessons with those coming up. My gift, such as it is, is to write. I must stand by Patt by writing her story.

As I move forward, Patt’s husband, Hodding Carter III, himself, like his father, a civil rights hero in his native Mississippi and the State Department spokesman during a Carter Administration faced with Iran’s hostage taking and an aborted rescue attempt, has offered their family’s endorsement of the project. An open letter from Hodding says, in part:

As many of you know, Patt has been sidelined for a long while for health reasons. Aging is a process that has taken its toll; however, the legacy Patt has left us remains as rich and as meaningful now as when she actively fought for civil rights at home and human rights around the world.

It is important that her story be fully told, as the challenges we face today, such as terrorism and the U.S. role in the world, mean the continuum of civil and human rights upon which Patt made her mark remains a definition of who we are and what we will leave to our grandchildren.

A friend of Patt's and mine—Martin "Mick" Andersen—is writing her biography, a work that will spans the totality of her idealism, activism, official contributions, and most important legacies. … Mick’s current project has our full and unqualified support. When he contacts you, please be generous with your time, memories and other help, as you see fit.

Guatemalan ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt with President Ronald Reagan, who chided Patt for her firm stand against the Argentine junta, saying that she should “walk a mile in the moccasins” of the Argentine generals before criticizing them.
Guatemalan ex-dictator Efraín Ríos Montt with President Ronald Reagan, who chided Patt for her firm stand against the Argentine junta, saying that she should “walk a mile in the moccasins” of the Argentine generals before criticizing them.

STILL TO COME

The goal is to research and write an approximately 300-page (book length) manuscript for publication in 2016. Already one prominent publishing house has expressed its interest in Healing Crusader. At the same time, I would like to establish an interactive Web site in Patt’s honor, in which those who worked with her and those who learned so much from her example can share their experiences, in order to incorporate some of them into the biography.

Risks and challenges

“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.” ― W. Hodding Carter

I first met Patt in Buenos Aires in 1983 when she was personally invited to the inaugural of incoming democratic President Raul Alfonsin, himself a human rights hero, as Argentina's “dirty warriors" limped back to their barracks after being quickly defeated by Great Britain in a real war.

Patt became an inspiring mentor, staying in touch as I made my way to Washington, D.C., to labor both inside and outside officialdom. I had just arrived in the nation's capital in 1987 immediately following the publication of journalistic "scoop" about Secretary of State Henry Kissinger giving the Argentine generals a “green light” for their vicious repression—a story based on Patt’s revelations to me.

Six years later, I published the first of three books I have written. "Dossier Secreto: Argentina's Desaparecidos and the Myth of the 'Dirty War'" earned a full-page review in the Sunday New York Times and an endorsement from Senator Edward Kennedy. Patt was one of the three people to whom it was dedicated.

To date I have put in hundreds of hours on this project, thrilled by the fact I will be able to help reawaken public appreciation for Patt’s story; of what it meant for her and the impact on so many others of her being on the barricades as well as in conference rooms fighting for civil rights and human rights.

History and writing are my joys as well as my profession, and I have never worked anywhere where my bosses thought I had NOT given my all to the work at hand. But I need your financial help to keep moving forward.

If you help, I can promise that I will keep you and the literate public informed about my progress, sharing in the exchanges and truths revealed by those who knew Patt best.

Whatever you can donate is greatly appreciated, as it will allow me to make maximum use of the time that remains before Patt’s story is reviewed and appreciated even more around the world.

Healing Crusader is a story that should be remembered, bringing to light the roots and wings that Patt has left for all of us ... to promote, as well as defend.

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Funding period

- (60 days)