The Leopoldo López Student Award is presented to a current Kenyon College student who has demonstrated:
- Significant commitment to the advancement of a cause;
- Demonstrable impact, clarity of purpose, engagement with others in the Kenyon community;
- Meaningful contributions to the understanding of the pursuit of freedom or democracy through research or other scholarly pursuits; and/or
- Sustained commitment, the creation of a new effort, or the infusing of new vigor into an effort that had lost momentum.
The winner of the award, which carries an honorarium of $1,000, is announced at Kenyon’s Honors Day Convocation in April.
Any member of the Kenyon community may nominate a current student for this award. Please submit a letter of nomination directly to the Center for the Study of American Democracy (firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 19, 2021. Letters of nomination need not be lengthy, but should provide sufficient detail to demonstrate the qualifications and strengths of the nominee relative to the terms of the award. Letters will be reviewed by a selection committee assembled by the Center for the Study of American Democracy and the Office of the President of Kenyon College.
Leopoldo López, Kenyon College Class of 1993 and Honorary Degree 2007, is the most prominent leader of the Venezuelan opposition movement. In early 2014, López, along with over 500,000 supporters, peacefully protested the Venezuelan regime’s human rights abuses and dismantling of fair democratic processes. López was arrested and tried on trumped up charges of murder, terrorism and conspiracy, and sentenced to nearly fourteen years in military prison. He was released under house arrest in 2017. In April 2019, he was freed by a brief uprising against the Venezuelan government, but was later forced to seek refuge in the Spanish embassy in Managua when the uprising failed. In October 2020, Leopóldo escaped to Spain where he lives in exile. He faces arrest should he return to Venezuela.
Amnesty International called Lopez’ treatment a “politically motivated attempt to silence dissent.” The New York Times Editorial Board described his trial as a “travesty.” The list of world leaders that called for his freedom includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Through this award, López’s classmates, family and the Kenyon community acknowledge López’s bravery, conviction and compassion, which stands as an inspiration to all who seek to strengthen and preserve democracy and the fundamental values on which it is built: liberty, human freedom, the rule of law, and the rights of people.