Cleary wins award for social activism

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(Host) A 75-year old former nun is being honored with a Social Justice Award in a ceremony at the Burlington Waterfront tonight.

The non-profit Peace and Justice Center will present the annual award this year to Roddy O’Neill Cleary for her lifelong commitment to social activism and volunteer work.

Cleary says keeping in touch with college students at the University of Vermont helped her get involved in helping organizations like the Committee on Temporary Shelter:

(Cleary) "A student became involved in working with COTS, and then she came and said ‘y’know we need overnight volunteers at Cots for the family shelters and that seemed to be a call…it was an opportunity to be with an operation where people really were enduring homelessness."

(Host) Even though Cleary left the sisterhood some years ago, she still believes religion has a vital role to play in social justice. As a member of Vermont Interfaith Action, she helped interview hundreds of people around the state to find out what issues they’re most concerned about and take those concerns directly to lawmakers:

(Cleary) "One was affordable housing, the 2nd one was access to health care, and the other was opportunities for youth, so the clergy has visited with legislators in Montpelier…to me this is where religion comes alive."

(Host) Cleary also protested against the war in Iraq before the US invasion in 2003. She says people who were against the war should not feel despair that their opposition failed to prevent the war:

(Cleary) "I don’t feel as if there’s room for despair. I do believe the difference between hope and despair is struggle, and there’s enough to struggle for at home and abroad…we can’t just complain about our politicians…I think we have to be constantly confronting them.

(Host) Cleary says she’s humbled to receive this year’s social justice award. The Peace and Justice Center holds its annual event tonight at the ECHO Center on the Burlington Waterfront beginning at 6:30.

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