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IUSA Distinguished Leader Award

Michael Barron

The following remarks were made by Siobhan Byrne Learat, President of the IUSA at the IUSA 2015 Congress

The Distinguished Alumni Award will recognize alumni of U.S. government exchange programs who have demonstrated excellence in their chosen profession, who are committed to promoting the special relationship between the United States and Ireland, and who have made an outstanding contribution to society, the community or philanthropy. The Awards Committee received excellent nominations for this inaugural award and we were delighted to see that our alumni network is excelling in so many areas of Irish life. We look forward to receiving nominations for next year’s award.

This year’s recipient has worked successfully and creatively as an advocate for marginalized young people in Ireland and internationally for the past 18 years. In 2003, Mr. Michael Barron founded BeLonG To – an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people – which has been signaled out for commendation from the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In founding and directing the organization, he has established its vision, set up its systems and built its national and international network. He has ensured strong youth participation from the beginning, and through his development of robust youth leadership training and supports BeLonG To is widely acknowledged, and independently evaluated, as having excellent involvement of young people in the organization’s management structure and decision making. Young people from BeLonG To have been asked to serve on numerous advisory bodies, including the U.S. Embassy’s Youth Council.

In addition to his work with BeLonG To, Michael has also worked with the Department of Education in Ireland to develop the country’s first national anti-bullying action plan. This advocacy work has led to the development of a comprehensive national Anti-Bullying Action Plan as well as mandatory anit-bullying guidelines for all schools in Ireland.

He has also worked on an international level: with UNESCO to develop the first global guide on tackling homophobic bullying and through connections with the U.S. Department of State, developed during his IVLP visit, he has worked with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to develop initiatives to support LGBT young people in Eastern Europe. This work has brought him to the Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Russia to promote the human rights of LGBT people.  He is an internationally sought after speaker, have presented about young people’s rights at policy and academic conferences around the world.

Michael also maintains a strong media presence, to ensure that the rights of LGBT young people maintain a public profile.   He is a regular contributor to television, radio and newspaper interviews and has published multiple opinion pieces. He worked for many years on the documentary series Growing Up Gay which aired on RTE in 2010. In addition to his strong media focus, Michael has raised public awareness through many successful campaigns, one of the online ads for his Stand Up! Support Your LGBT Friend Campaign has been viewed more than one million times, making it the most viewed online ad from any Irish charity.

In 2013, Michael was awarded the Person of the Year at the Gay and Lesbian Awards and the Harvey Milk Human Rights Medal and was invited to the White House on St. Patrick’s Day in recognition for his work to empower LGBT young people in Ireland and around the world.

In recognition of his professional excellence, his long-term commitment to the U.S. – Irish relationship and his outstanding advocacy on behalf of marginalized youth and the LGBT community in Ireland, I am delighted to present Mr. Michael Barron with the Ireland United States Alumni Association/U.S. Embassy Dublin Distinguished Alumni Award 2015.

Further Information can be found at http://www.belongto.org/

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