Human rights activist to take the stage in the first Ubben Lecture of the academic year


She crossed a frozen river and three mountains to freedom, watched her mother be assaulted by human traffickers and buried her father without having time to grieve. 

Now, she will cross the stage in the Green Center for the Performing Arts’ Kresge Auditorium to share her story and a message of freedom to all people of the world. 

Yeonmi Park is a North Korean defector who just wrote her first book called “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.” It comes out on Sept. 29; six days later, on Oct. 5, she will be speak at DePauw University as the first Ubben Lecturer of the 2015-2016 academic year. 

The Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture Series began in 1986 and showcases approximately four speakers every year. The lecture series strives to bring world leaders to DePauw and has welcomed individuals of varying backgrounds from politicians to athletes. The lectures are free to all, including the Greencastle community. 

Past Ubben lecture speakers include: talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Margret Thatcher, former president of the United States Bill Clinton and scientist and activist Jane Goodall. 

“Her background story is so rich, it’s so human,” said Ken Owen, executive director of media relations at DePauw. He is excited for Park to speak as a part of the lectureship and feels she will bring important conversation to the community.

“It’s very rare that we are confronted with someone who has lived it,” he said. 

Owen schedules the Ubben lectures every year, and said that this year will be special, with the next speaker already being planned for later in the fall semester. 

“I don’t want the Ubben lecture series to be one thing,” he said. “‘Mix it up’ is the goal.” 

Yeonmi Park serves as a human rights activist and will talk about her experience with the horrors of human trafficking and her quest for freedom. She was a featured speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum and the One Young World Summit in Dublin and is on the BBC’s list of the “Top 100 Global Women.” 

Park will speak at DePauw one day after her 22nd birthday, making her the youngest Ubben speaker in the program’s history. She will be the first lecturer from Northeast Asia and the first whose topic is human rights since Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration for the film “Hotel Rwanda.”

“I think it is really great that she is coming when the book comes out and she is going to get some attention,” Owen said.