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Columbia University, Barnard College Student Demme Durrett Takes the Vatican

09-14-2018 11:06 AM CET | Politics, Law & Society

Press release from: Youth for Human Rights-USA

Demme Durrett presents Pope Francis a "What is Human Rights?" booklet at St. Peter's Bascilica

Demme Durrett presents Pope Francis a "What is Human Rights?" booklet at St. Peter's Bascilica

The Woodlands, Texas – September 2018 – John Cooper ’15 and Columbia University, Barnard College senior Demme Durrett spent her summer in Rome doing more than just getting a selfie at the Colosseum. As a Public Affairs Intern at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See (Vatican), Durrett coordinated logistics for world leaders, created content for the Embassy’s social media accounts (@usinholysee), and even helped to facilitate university tour groups of the Embassy. Durrett was particularly happy to show a group of fellow Texans from UT around the Embassy premises.

For this globally-focused Columbia senior, the chance to work alongside U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, Callista Gingrich to bring the Embassy’s priorities to a wider audience through revamping the Embassy’s social media accounts was particularly exciting. The highlight of Durrett’s summer, however, came from what she describes as an “immense, once-in-a-lifetime honor” to meet with Pope Francis and present his Holiness with a What are Human Rights? booklet on youth-focused human rights education.

Given her previous experience in human rights education and her continued efforts to spread human rights awareness and education throughout the greater Houston community, Durrett was selected for the Department of State summer internship program from a nationwide pool. One of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See’s main priorities remains putting an end to trafficking in persons which allowed Durrett to bring her own past interests to the table. After learning about Houston’s harrowing distinction as one of the main human trafficking ports in the United States, Durrett decided to take action to educate others. She began the Human Rights Walk and Festival as a project for her Girl Scout Gold Award, to educate people on their human rights and as a way to arm the community against injustices both here and abroad. The event, the Human Rights Walk and Festival, has taken place at Town Green Park annually since 2012; this December 8th will mark the eighth annual celebration.

Much of Durrett’s work this summer revolved around the ideas of international religious freedom, interfaith dialogue, and measures to combat human trafficking; all of which further fueled her drive to make universal human rights known to all. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the document that lays out a roadmap of individual rights and freedoms. When asked about her thoughts on this monumental occasion, Durrett expressed a sense of pride in her generation for taking up the mantle on social leadership but warned against the dangers of complacency stating “more than ever, it’s up to us to make sure we know and exercise our rights. It only takes one person to realize a violation of rights and to, in turn, take action which moves us towards a more peaceful and sustainable society.”

To learn more about human rights and how to get involved, this year’s event will take place on December 8, 2018 from 10:30 am-1:00 pm at Town Green Park. Durrett’s vision for the ‘not to be missed’ event is to make it “as inclusive, meaningful, educational, inspiring, and fun for our diverse Greater-Houston community as possible.” She encourages attendees to bring friends and family of all ages to take part in this very special event. For more information about how to get involved this year or to register, please visit The event is free.
To get started learning about human rights, including a video on the Story of Human Rights, please visit the websites here. Information about corporate underwriting and sponsorship for the 8th annual Human Rights Walk and Festival, as well as the entire portfolio of events from her nonprofit organization, Youth for Human Rights-USA can be found at

Youth for Human Rights USA (a 501.c3 Not for Profit organization) is dedicated to making Human Rights a Reality. We work with other human rights organizations to co-sponsor educational festivals, events and activities that enlighten the broad public on their human rights in an effort to create more peace and tolerance in the world.

Youth for Human Rights-USA
94 Sunlit Grove
The Woodlands, Texas 77382

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