Armando Valladares, who will deliver a keynote address during Words & Music, 2011, was a Cuban Postal Bank employee supporting himself in Havana as a college student, when he was arrested by Fidel Castro’s forces for refusing to remove a religious symbol from his desk and display instead a sign promoting communism. Valladares was jailed in 1960 at age 23 by new Castro government on charges of counter-revolutionary activity where he spent 22 years in prison. He was adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, and an international campaign for his release was led by his wife Marta. Many artists worldwide joined the campaign, which culminated in French President François Mitterrand’s personal appeal to Fidel Castro to free Valladares. Following his release, Valladares immigrated to the U.S. Amnesty International described him as the “embodiment” of a “prisoner of conscience” and referred to him as “arrested and sentenced for years in prison not for something he did but for something he refused to do, becoming a martyr to Fidel Castro’s propaganda machine.” His memoir, Against All Hope—which details his incarceration in Cuban prisons—became an international bestseller. Maureen Reagan brought the Valladares case to the attention of her father, President Ronald Reagan, who appointed Valladares to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He served in that capacity from 1988 to 1990. As head of the U.S. Delegation, he successfully brought Cuba before the Commission for human rights violations. President Reagan later awarded Valladares the nation’s second-highest civil honor, the Presidential Citizens Medal. He continues to work for human rights all over the world and for projects to bolster the arts. For more on this remarkable man and founder of the Valladares Project in support of childrens’ rights, Click Here!