Mora Charge

Alberto Mora, you called for justice, at a time when the cherished values of this country were being severely compromised by the use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners at Guantanamo. In so doing you became a model for all who would stand up for liberty and the rule of law.

Born in Boston in 1952 to a Hungarian mother and a Cuban father, both refugees from totalitarian regimes, you absorbed at a young age from your grandfather, faith in the law as a bulwark against injustice. You graduated from Swarthmore with Honors in English Literature in 1974. After a posting in Lisbon for the Foreign Service, in 1981, you earned your JD from the University of Miami and then began to practice law, specializing in international dispute resolution. You have served as General Counsel of the United States Information Agency, as Editor-in-chief of Lawyers of the Americas: The University of Miami Journal of International Law.

In 2001 you were appointed General Counsel of the Department of the Navy, where you learned that prisoners at the Guantánamo Naval Base were being subjected, during interrogation, to cruel and illegal treatment. For several years you worked to halt those practices, warning that they violated the law and would have very serious political consequences for the United States.

You also vigorously challenged the suspension of habeas corpus for the Guantanamo prisoners and, at the same time, sought to refute the legal framework, constructed to justify widespread wiretapping. Initially, your arguments went unheeded, but you persisted, laying the groundwork for the reversal of American policy, which took place after the exposure of similar prisoner abuses in Iraq and the publication by the New Yorker of a widely read expose.

You have been honored by the Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and by the Distinguished Honor Award from the United States Information Agency.

Following your resignation from the Navy Department in 2006, you accepted the position of Vice President and General Counsel for the international division of Wal-Mart, where you currently oversee the company's legal affairs in over 15 countries.

Alberto Mora, you have argued forcefully that, and I quote "human rights are incompatible with cruelty... (and that)... the debate... isn't only how to protect the country but it's how to protect both the country and its values." In the words of the former head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, "Never has there been a counsel with more intellectual courage or personal integrity..."

You raised your voice in defense of the law, of basic human rights and of justice, and that voice helped change the course of American history. This College is deeply proud to claim you as one of our own.

Upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Laws.

Read Alberto Mora's address.