For many people, the notion of human rights connotes the struggle for freedom and dignity in other countries, often in the context of major geopolitical or ideological contests. Indeed, in the U.S. government, the executive department ostensibly charged with advancing human rights is the State Department, where advancing human rights is, according to Secretary Blinken, “at the center of our foreign policy.” Rights struggles inside the United States, in contrast, are mostly viewed through the lens of civil rights and constitutional law.
That bifurcation misses the essential wisdom and power of the human rights idea: that the recognition of the inherent dignity of every individual and protection of their human rights is the foundation of global peace on and security. Eleanor Roosevelt, a chief architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, put it this way:
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home, so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. 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. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
(Eleanor Roosevelt, ?The Great Question,? remarks delivered at the United Nations in New York on March 27, 1958)
To explore the relevance of the human rights framework to rights struggles “close to home,” the Human Rights Institute will host a series of conversations about systemic rights challenges in the United States.
The first event in this series will feature a discussion between Diann Rust-Tierney, Georgetown’s Robert F. Drinan, S.J., Chair in Human Rights and longtime Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Marc Bookman, death penalty abolitionist and author of the new book A Descending Spiral: Exposing the Death Penalty in 12 Essays. The conversation will be held on Tuesday, October 19, at [exact time TBD] in Gewirz 12.