In Propria Persona
Descriptive phrases like “a colorful and vibrant life” only begin to scratch the surface of the celebrated human rights activist and film producer named Thor Halvorssen Mendoza. He is commonly goes by the name Thor Halvorssen. His contributions in civil liberties and human rights have earned him a stunning reputation in the worldwide media. He has been labeled a maverick by the New York Times for his pro-democracy stance and for his championing of those suffering from injustice.
Thor is the founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual conference that brings together public figures, heads of state, and Nobel Prize winners to conduct panel discussions for a live audience. It is considered the premier human rights conference, with far-reaching influence that helps shape government policy on an international scale.
Currently, Thor Halvorssen is the president of the Human Rights Foundation, the organizer behind the Freedom Forum, and is the founder of the Moving Picture Institute (MPI), headquartered in New York City. The MPI produces a number of documentary films, mostly centered on social justice issues like government corruption, human rights abuses, and individual freedoms.
Thor was born in Venezuela, and comes from affluence. On his mother’s side, he is related to Venezuela’s first two presidents, and his father was an ambassador for the country. He is also the grandson of Øystein Halvorssen, a noted consul to the king of Norway.
Thor attended the University of Pennsylvania between 1993 and 1997, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a concurrent Master of Arts degree in History.
He was inspired to engage human rights advocacy due to events very close to him. First, while he was just beginning his education at the University of Pennsylvania, his father was falsely accused of terrorism as retaliation for his investigation of a powerful drug cartel. In prison, he was tortured, and Halvorssen led the campaign to have him released. He petitioned Amnesty International and other international groups to help. Second, his mother was shot and wounded during a peaceful government protest in Venezuela by pro-government security personnel who were later apprehended and convicted. These two events shaped his perception of abuses in government and the importance of individual rights like freedom of speech. In fact, his advocacy specialties include human trafficking and slavery as well as threats to democracy.
Immediately after completing his graduate degree, Thor Halvorssen became the first executive director and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, bringing together diverse advocacy groups from both sides of the political aisle, including:
• The Heritage Foundation
• American Civil Liberties Union
• The Eagle Forum
• Feminists for Free Expression
Thor is widely regarded for his even-handed approach to advocacy, defending rights and championing causes on both the right and the left of the political span.
Ad colligenda bona
While operating the Human Rights Foundation, Thor Halvorssen has been fortunate enough to work with such notables as Elie Wiesel, Garry Kasparov, and Vladimir Bukovsky. The organization is a powerful lobbying group, helping to advocate for the release of political prisoners around the world. The HRF has been instrumental in keeping pressure on the Chinese government to release Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been incarcerated since 2009 for his outspoken calls for political reforms in China.
Thor writes extensively, having appeared in many online and print publications. His Huffington Post series illustrates his passion for human rights, while his opinion column in The Weekly Standard receives acclaim, with titles like:
• Hurricane Hugo
• Comandante Chavez’s Friends
• Horror in Venezuela
• Guerilla Nation
Thor’s writing has also appeared in The Atlantic. Along with his writing, he has done many speaking engagements, appearing at distinguished locales like Harvard Law School, the United Nations Association, and the American Enterprise Institute. He has appeared on a number of news networks, with his expert opinion showcased for BBC News, MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN, and al Jazeera.
Ex Fida Bona
Thor Halvorssen received the Sol Feinstone Award from the University of Pennsylvania for his work in defending student speech on campus. As the editor of the student magazine The Red & Blue, Halvorssen was instrumental in championing causes that affected student life.
Thor received a presidential silver medal from Romanian president Emil Constantinescu as a way to commemorate the anniversary of the Romanian Revolution of 1989. The Oslo Freedom Forum founder was chosen for this honor for his aggressive efforts to protect democracy worldwide.
He is also a Patron of the Czech-based group called the Children’s Peace Movement, an organization that fosters relationships between children in Europe and those from war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thor has worked extensively in the film industry, with producer credits for documentary films like:
• Hammer & Tickle
• Freedom’s Fury
• Indoctrinate U
• The Singing Revolution
He was also instrumental in producing a film adapation of a Kurt Vonnegut short story called “Harrison Bergeron”. The adaptation is called 2081, and it received positive press at the Seattle Film Festival when it was shown. Currently, he is producing a film adaptation of the Robert Heinlein story Moon is a Harsh Mistress with director Bryan Singer.
The well-traveled Thor Halvorssen is active on social media platforms. He has nearly 20000 followers on his Twitter feed, where he shares news about his advocacy work, important announcements from around the world, and human rights stories. Likewise, on his Facebook page, he links to articles written by and about him and shares information on the Oslo Freedom Forum with his nearly 13000 fans.
In the same New York Times article that branded him a maverick, Thor was also described as “a conservative operating in liberal territory” (a positive slant, despite the wording). He is innovating film screenings by working directly with theater owners and managers in cities around the U.S., ushering in a revolution in locally-held hometown viewings of his documentaries. Thor Halvorssen is a busy man, indeed, and he continues to work against injustice and tyranny in everything he does.