The Vaclav Havel Library Foundation is excited to announce the first recipient of the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation Fellowship for Human Rights. The fellowship recipient, Drew Miller, is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who has embodied dedication to human rights through his works as a case manager for resettling refugees. As the VHLF fellow, Drew will travel to Prague for a two week, fully-funded opportunity to learn from and engage with organizations in the Czech Republic working to carry forward Havel’s legacy in the field of human rights.
Throughout his undergraduate career, Drew Miller has sustained a commitment to protecting the rights and well-being of others, capturing the spirit of Vaclav Havel’s legacy. Drew, a political science and global studies double major with minors in Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and History, has worked since 2013 as a refugee resettlement case manager at the Catholic Social Services of Southern Nebraska. In this capacity he has helped to protect the rights of refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Burma, and other countries as they resettled in Lincoln, Nebraska. Through this work, he grew close to the Yazidi population he served in Lincoln, which has the largest such population in the US. This familiarity led him to become involved in advocating for the US Congress to recognize ISIS as responsible for the genocide of the Yazidi people in 2014.
Building on his experiences in refugee resettlement and advocacy, Drew founded a community organization, Lincoln Friends of Refugees, in order to build relationships between refugees and peer mentors within the community. In addition to building communal bonds, the organization has also helped to block anti-refugee resettlement polices at the state and local level. Through these and other efforts, Drew Miller has demonstrated an admirable level of leadership in human rights. As such, the Vaclav Havel Library foundation is delighted to name him as the first recipient of this fellowship.
Founded as part of Havel@80, the fellowship honors playwright, essayist, political dissident, and the former president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel’s contributions as a champion of human rights and freedom around the world. The competition attracted over forty applicants for the single fellowship position, being offered for the first time this year. In addition to submitting a transcript, cover letter, resume, and letter of reference, each applicant composed an essay on the topic of resistance, utilizing insight from Vaclav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless to discuss modern day crises of human rights. The essays submitted applied Havel’s thoughts on the nature of truth, freedom, and repression to such diverse topics as encountering violent persecution as a queer-identifying person, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Arab Spring.
Each application was judged by a jury on the quality of the essay as well as the degree to which the applicant displayed characteristics of leadership, intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, creative drive, and an active engagement with human rights. The jury consisted of five members: Dan Listwa, George J. Mitchell Scholar pursuing a Master’s degree in Philosophy and Public Affairs at University College Dublin; Martin Palous, Director of the Vaclav Havel Initiative for Human Rights and Diplomacy at the Florida International University; Lise Stone, writer and editor with a focus on international affairs; Bill Shipsey, Founder of Art for Amnesty – Amnesty International’s global artist engagement program; and Michael Zantovsky, Director of the Vaclav Havel Library and president of the Aspen Institute Prague.
Four finalists – Kari Barclay, Lilly Crown, Detmer Kremer and Drew Miller – were selected on the basis of these criteria, all of whom will have their essays featured on the VHLF website. Each of the finalist were interviewed by Michael Žantovský, President Havel’s first spokesman, press secretary and political coordinator and the current director of the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague, and Daniel Listwa, fellowship coordinator at the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation.
This year, the fellow will be hosted between June 1 and June 15. The primary organization for fellow’s stay in Prague will be the Vaclav Havel Library. The rest of the itinerary in Prague will be prepared according to the fellow’s interest, offering an opportunity to work with a variety of different organizations.
Please, see the bio and essay of the winner – Drew Miller, as well as the essays of the other three finalists.