Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Visits Willamette

The Salem Conference Center was packed on March 6 as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. took the stage for an evening lecture sponsored by the Dempsey Foundation and Willamette's Center for Sustainable Communities.

Kennedy showed students a fiery brand of activism as he described the history of Hudson Riverkeeper, for whom he is chief prosecuting attorney. Riverkeeper -- started in the 1960s by small commercial fishermen who were upset about "corporate entities robbing them of the Hudson River" that had long been their resource -- led a successful fight to restore the river by tracking down polluters and prosecuting them under the law. Kennedy continues efforts to curb environmental harm and urges that productivity and sustainability are compatible priorities.

"My advocacy [for the environment] has not been about saving the birds and the fishes," he says, "but about recognizing we're protecting nature because nature is the infrastructure of our communities."

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