Rusty Kennedy has served as executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission since 1981 and as the founding CEO of the nonprofit Orange County Human Relations Council, established 1991.
The mission at OC Human Relations is to promote understanding among diverse residents and eliminate prejudice, intolerance and discrimination.
Kennedy leads this dynamic public-private partnership that includes the nationally recognized BRIDGES: school intergroup relations and violence prevention program, a mediation-conflict resolution program and a community building program that includes diverse leadership development, police-community relations training, collaborative community planning, living room dialogues and civil rights advocacy.
OC Human Relations reaches more than 40,000 middle- and high-school students, annually building their capacity to create safe, inclusive schools where bullying, put-downs and disrespect are discouraged. Through BRIDGES’ anti-bullying and violence prevention program, OC Human Relations has reached more than 500,000 students during the last decade.
Rusty Kennedy publishes articles on civil rights, hate crime and building intergroup understanding and has received numerous awards and honors, including selection as a delegate to the White House Conference on Hate Crime and appointment to the California attorney general’s Hate Crime Commission. He serves on the boards of the California Association of Human Relations Organizations and the Orange County Congregation Community Organization.
Raised in Fullerton, Rusty’s first taste of civil rights activism was in 1965, when as a 13-year-old he joined a march in Sacramento with Cesar Chavez to bring attention to the plight of farmworkers. One of his first political acts was to go door-to-door to oppose the ballot measure to repeal the California Fair Housing Act, when he was 14 years old. Under the urging of his father, Ralph Kennedy, he asked voters to vote against the repeal of this landmark civil rights law.