Farmingdale Student Wins 2016 Speak Truth to Power Video Contest

(April 21, 2016 | Washington, D.C.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the Tribeca Film Institute (TFI), are proud to announce that Pat McGarry of Howell High School in Farmingdale, New Jersey has won the Grand Prize of the fifth annual Speak Truth To Power video contest.

McGarry is being honored for his short film, a satire “How To Be An American Muslim”, which asks the audience to reflect on the challenges of being a Muslim in America today and highlights the work of human rights defender Dalia Mogahed. The film was selected for the Grand Prize out of over 600 entries from 200 schools and will be screened on April 21 at the Tribeca Film Festival. Over 3,500 videos have been produced since the contest began and since the contest’s inception, an estimated 25,000 students have participated in the contest.

A special award, Most Inspirational, was given to “A Modern Lynching” made by Ioannes Palomaria of Thomas Starr Middle School in Los Angeles, California.

“For five years we have witnessed the transformative impact of this contest on students across the country,” said John Heffernan, executive director of RFKennedy Human Rights Speak Truth To Power program. “With our partners AFT and TFI, this year we were able to reach more teachers and students than ever—inspiring young people to identify with some of the most courageous people on the planet.”

The Speak Truth To Power video contest is sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, the Tribeca Film Institute, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. The contest challenges middle and high school students to make a three to five-minute video focusing on a local human rights defender, or one of the defenders featured in Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ Speak Truth To Power human rights curriculum, which is taught to more than a million students around the world each year.

“Through efforts like this one, we are reclaiming the promise of public education by creating opportunities for all children to experience the joy in learning and introducing them to heroes that are changing lives today on issues that impact their lives,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “The Speak Truth To Power video contest and curriculum are a powerful example of how public education can live up to its ideal as an anchor of democracy – by giving all children the tools they need to be citizens of the world and advocates for social justice, in their communities and across the globe.”

This year’s panel of judges—which included Kerry Kennedy, Matt McCoy, Alfre Woodard, Peter Rundlet, and Dick Ianuzzi, looked for films that used creative storytelling through documentary, stop motion, narrative, or digital photo essay.


Robert F. KennedySpeak Truth To Power, a project of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, is global initiative that uses the experiences of courageous defenders from around the world to educate students and others about human rights, and urge them to take action. Issues range from slavery and environmental activist to religious self-determination and political participation.

The American Federation of Teachers is a union of 1.6 million professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. They are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.

The Tribeca Film Institute champions storytellers to be catalysts for change in their communities and around the world. Each year, they identify a diverse group of exceptional filmmakers and media artists then empower them with funding and resources to fully realize their stories and connect with audiences. Their education programs empower students through hands-on training and exposure to socially relevant films, offering young people the media skills necessary to be creative and productive global citizens.