For many former leaders of countries, it is hoped that their succeeding generations will be prosperous and respected in their homelands. Thor Halvorssen is a descendant of the first president of Venezuela – Cristóbal Mendoza. In fact, Halvorssen is not the only accomplished member of the family. His father, Thor Halvorssen Hellum, was a Venezuelan Ambassador for ant-narcotic affairs. He also was appointed as a special international investigator of a Venezuelan Senate Commission. Halvorssen’s grandfather, Oystein Halvorssen, served Norway’s King as a consul and was a representative for Venezuelan companies within Norway. Given the success and respected service for not only Venezuela but also the world, one would reasonably assume that Mendoza would indeed be proud of the young, up-and-coming Thor Halvorssen.
Given that Halvorssen holds Bachelors and Maters degrees in Political Science and History from Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, it is no surprise that he is very active in government and legal affairs. More specifically, Halvorssen has made it a point to focus on topics such as slavery, human trafficking and combating unjust dictators.
Even though he is Venezuelan by birth, Halvorssen has made a significant impact not only in his home country but also internationally. In 1999, he was appointed as the chief executive officer of the American civil liberties organization FIRE – Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. In that same year, he led a campaign to encourage U.S. – based Lucent Technologies to adopt a company policy that would require the country of China to certify that none of the company’s products being manufactured within its borders were being done so using slave labor.
Perhaps one of his most well-known contributions to society is his work with the Human Rights Foundation. During the time Halvorssen was helping to lead the foundation, it became world-renowned for its support of high-profile activists of democracy. He was a staunch advocate for longtime Chinese political prisoner Liu Xiaobo. So regarded were his efforts on behalf of Xiaobo, that Halvorssen was asked to be Xiaobo’s special guest during the 2010 Nobel Prize ceremony in which Xiaobo was awarded in absentia.
Dictatorships, human trafficking and many other human rights violations are still, unfortunately, a part of people’s lives in the world. However, with visionaries such as Thor Halvorssen, the fight for what is dignified and just is alive and well.