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Thanks, Eleanor

December 9, 2015

On December 10th in 1948 the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This was an effort that Eleanor Roosevelt championed and one which she considered to be her greatest professional and life accomplishment.

The Declaration has a short preamble (seven whereas’s and a proclamation) and 30 articles that affirm the values of global human rights, dignity and freedom.

It has no binding authority, but it is a powerful and inspiring document.

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So, our neighbors Verena and Ray put on a event annually at the International House in observance of the document’s adoption. They organize a multi-cultural, multi-lingual reading of the declaration, followed by a short discussion, followed by cookies.

Sixty-one people participate in the reading: a person to read the preamble, and two people to read each of the articles–one who translates the article into the language of his/her country, and another to read it in English. I counted 21 different languages (some languages repeated, like Spanish, Arabic and Farsi). The reading is hugely symbolic and therefore pretty moving.

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This is Barak Zilber who is reading Article 7 in Hebrew. Article 7 has to do with all people being equal under the law and entitled to equal protection against discrimination. To his left, Bengali, French and Chinese; to his right, Czech, Spanish and Japanese.

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And so it went.

Peter and I participated this year (our second time). I read Article 27, Peter 28.

Maybe not surprisingly, I saw lots of people I knew–bunches of neighbors, a couple city council members, an old friend from the way back, the son of one of my first bosses, some old work contacts… it was fun and all community-ish.

And, thankfully, Peter ran into two friends who were also recruited as readers: Sam and Madison (“M.E.” whom he’s known since they were in the same kindergarten class!).

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This picture is funny to me, not because of Peter’s half-annoyed, half-bemused expression, but because I had expressed all manner of displeasure at his wardrobe selection, explaining to him that an event like this deserved the respect of nice clothing, something OTHER THAN a hoodie. He disagreed (What does he know!, I thought but didn’t say). You will note that both Sam and Madison are wearing hoodies.

One of my favorite parts of the night was the post-reading discussion. A couple of people spoke about Trump–one said he’d violated about half of the articles and undermined most of the intent of the Declaration. Sam stood up and said he was aware of the relatively privileged life he was leading, being a white guy in an affluent community with easy access to basic and essential amenities and freedoms. He went on to say he was prepared to dedicate his life to reaching out to people in other parts of the world who struggle for even the most fundamental of human rights. He was absolutely serious.

It gave me hope.

 

 

 

 

 

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