Summer 2001

Award of Merit to an Argentinean Songbird, Mercedes Sosa

The normally festive Opening Ceremony of the Board of Governors Meeting was tempered by the tragic terrorist attack that had occurred the evening before. The standing-room-only audience at the Hecht Museum Auditorium stood for a minute's silence to honor the victims, and only then did the University pay tribute to a singer who is known for more than her enthralling renditions of South American folksongs.

Mercedes Sosa received the University's Humanitarian Award of Merit not only for her musical achievements, but also for her struggle for freedom, equality, and social justice. Her fight for human rights, especially in her native Argentina, from which she was once exiled, have earned her the soubriquet Ambassador of Good Will from South America and the Caribbean by the United Nations.

It was no surprise, therefore, that Mercedes spoke out about the act of terror directed against Israeli youth, condemning it just as she has reviled other acts of inhumanity, before going on to sing, to the audience's delight. Her songs, extolling the workingman and the attachment to one's land, were bitter sweet in tone and made an impression even if one did not understand the Spanish verses. The folk singer's lead song was in Hebrew, earning her deeper affection among the audience.


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