Human Rights Day
Tuesday was Human Rights Day, celebrated for the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.
Eleanor Roosevelt was the chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights at the time. She regarded her role in drafting and securing adoption of the Declaration as her greatest achievement.
As ER readily admitted, she had no legal training or expert knowledge of parliamentary procedure, but she brought to her job as chair the skills she had acquired as political activist, reformer, and advocate for those excluded from power and an understanding of the meaning of freedom earned through a deep engagement in the struggle in her own country for social and economic justice, civil rights, and women’s rights. She possessed not only a passionate commitment to human rights, but a hard-earned knowledge of the political and cultural obstacles to securing them in a divided world.
“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home… Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.
1958 speech delivered on the tenth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Pictured: Eleanor Roosevelt holding poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Lake Success, New York. November 1949.
-from the FDR Library
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