Human Rights

I am writing my blog this week from New York City, where I am one of five adults acting as chaperons for 37 youth from Carlisle High School. We are here at the New York Hilton and United Nations for the National High School Model United Nations conference. Just us and over 3,000 teenagers from all over the world!

I’ve been told that some of the resolutions passed here at the mock U.N. over the years have been sent on to the actual United Nations – and that some of the ideas have been adopted. Our keynote speaker last night for the Opening Session was Shula Koenig, founder of the People’s Movement for Human Rights Learning (PDHRE) and a recipient of the 2003 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, an award given to five people every five years since 1966. Often when we speak of “human rights” we package the discussion as a political, economic, social or cultural issue.

Ms. Koenig says it is none of those. Human rights are human rights – period. As a culture we enact laws, policies and regulations to protect those rights, but the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we claim to hold so dear in our country should not be up for debate or discussion.

Few of us are in a position to impact a large number of people as is Ms. Koenig. She has spoken to people of all socioeconomic levels in more than 60 countries. She is 82 years old and I describe her as a saucy, German grandmother who shoots from the hip. Her clarity and passion for equality are intoxicating.

Just because we may not regularly speak to large groups of people doesn’t mean we are powerless to affect change. Every day we each come into contact with situations in which the rights of people around us are being violated. We can offer small gestures that have a great impact on those people whose hopes, dreams and goals are suppressed.

We can help to educate those individuals who appear to be victims by assisting them to see other options for life. Our teachings about thinking positively and relying on Universal support can go a long way if we are walking the walk ourselves, not just talking the talk. We don’t need to laugh at jokes that are “funny” at the expense of others due to race, color, sexual or gender orientation, or those physically or mentally challenged – and we certainly don’t have to forward them to our friends and family!

Open a door for a stranger. Offer to help someone elderly get an item off a high shelf at the grocery store. Approach a homeless person, instead of averting your eyes, and offer to buy them a meal. Lead by example. There will be no fanfare, ticker tape parade or award ceremony. There will, however, be a shift in consciousness, one person at a time, to support everyone around you to be more loving, more forgiving and more understanding of our human conditions.

Having rights as human beings is not an option. Doing something about supporting the rights of others instead of complaining about inequality is a choice. Choosing to support others requires courage, consistency and determination. I know you are up to the task. Now – go change the world…one person at a time!

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,


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