Subject: strictly fyi: International Human Rights Day - this SATURDAY!
From: "Reis, Beth" <>
Date: 12/7/2011 1:14 PM

Dear Safe Schools Coalition Members and Friends:
(1) U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's historic and unprecedented speech before the United Nations about human rights for LGBT people
(2) International Human Rights Day, December 10th
(3) Why is the bisexuality of the champion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt, worthy of mention here?
(4) What is an ally and how is December 10th, International Human Rights Day, a day to celebrate allies?
(5) How is December 10th, International Human Rights Day, a day for discussing marriage equality?
(1) U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's historic and unprecedented speech before the United Nations about human rights for LGBT people
Watch this amazing speech with your class or GSA. It was spoken on 12/6/2011 in honor of the anniversary of the signing of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Go to:
(2) International Human Rights Day, December 10th
On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among its key architects was former first lady, and human rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt had lifelong emotional support for her human rights work from her husband, Franklin, as well as from her beloved companion, Lorena A. Hickok. Besides Roosevelt of the United States, the other major players in drafting this amazing declaration were René Cassin (France), Charles Malik (Lebanon), Peng Chun Chang (China), Hernan Santa Cruz (Chile), Alexandre Bogomolov/Alexei Pavlov, (Soviet Union), Lord Dukeston/Geoffrey Wilson (United Kingdom) William Hodgson (Australia), and John Humphrey (Canada).
Every year, on the anniversary of the United Nations' adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we celebrate International Human Rights Day. The Safe Schools Coalition invites you and your school to focus on the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was December 10, 1948, more than half a century ago, when the U.N. adopted the Declaration. World War II and the Nazi Holocaust had made clear to the world that we must stand together for "...the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family..." So a U.N. Commission on Human Rights was formed. It was chaired by tireless human rights activist and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The commission drafted an historically unprecedented document to codify that commitment. You can read that document, to which we [the United States] are signatories, at or, in dozens of languages,
But having an international agreement doesn't, of itself, make life more livable for individual human beings. WE do that ...
"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 concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
What is your family, your class, your club, your school district or your agency planning to do next, for instance, to ensure that nobody is "subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" as promised by the Universal Declaration? What are you doing to ensure that every person "has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association"? How about that each of us "has the right to education"? Let us all work toward peace on earth and the full recognition of the human rights of every member of the human family.
Web sites with more include: and and
(3) Why is the bisexuality of the champion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor Roosevelt, worthy of mention here?
Was Roosevelt bisexual? Many historians have concluded that Roosevelt was bisexual (according to our current understanding of the concept).
How do we know? She had long-term relationships with her husband, Franklin, and her dear friend, Lorena Hickock. Some of their love letters have been preserved. For more information, see a series of biographies by Blanche Wiesen Cook, entitled Eleanor Roosevelt and also see Empty Without You: The Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok by Eleanor Roosevelt, Lorena A. Hickok, and Rodger Streitmatter. This page offers a quote from their personal correspondence: This interview with Cook explains her perspective as a historian:
But Roosevelt would never have described herself as bisexual, would she? No. In the era in which she grew up, the term was still used to mean what we now call intersex (someone whose chromosomes, reproductive system or endocrine system isn't considered typical for either male or female). And during her adulthood, bisexuality was incredibly stigmatized; she died seven years before the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. But she loved Franklin (though, like many long-term relationships, theirs had ups and downs) and she loved Lorena. Today, many people who are capable of loving someone male and someone female describe themselves as bisexual.
So why must schools talk about Roosevelt's bisexuality?
a) Because bisexual youth -- like young people of any identity group -- deserve heroes and role models.
b) Because other youth need to know, too, of bisexual people who have changed the course of history and who contributed, as Roosevelt did enormously, to human rights everywhere. We all need to know that she was not only a first lady, but also in love with a woman, because that knowledge enriches us. It makes it less possible to objectify or demonize or stereotype bisexual people. Just as we all need role models of every color and ethnicity and of every religion and gender, so do we all need role models of every sexual orientation.
c) And because biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook is very sure that Roosevelt's passion for social justice was strengthened and her spirit emboldened by her love for Lorena Hickock.
So who was this hero? She was a tireless human rights activist. She once wrote of the need to save the Jewish people of Europe, "We will be the sufferers if we let great wrongs occur without exerting ourselves to correct them." She worked to pass anti-lynching legislation. She wrote a column urging congress not to further abrogate the sovereignty of American Indians. She resigned from the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) when they refused to let opera star Marian Anderson sing in their hall because Anderson was African-American and she arranged instead for her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial. She publicly opposed Apartheid long before world sentiment was united about it. She was one of the most admired women in America in her day.
(4) What is an ally and how is December 10th, International Human Rights Day, a day to celebrate allies?
What is an ally? The Safe Schools Coalition's glossary [] defines an ally [al' - eye] as "a member of a historically more powerful identity group who stands up against bigotry. For example, a man who confronts his friend about harassing women, a Christian who helps paint over a swastika, or a heterosexual person who objects to an anti-gay joke."
Weren't all, or nearly all, of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights acting as allies? While many developing countries helped draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, most of the individuals representing those countries were male, most were people of means, all were adults, the majority were white and heterosexual. Who, after all, served as ambassadors to the United Nations in 1948?
And yet they signed on to this incredible document, committing their own governments to "promote respect for these rights and freedoms" and "to secure their universal and effective recognition." Whose rights and freedoms? Everyone's, "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." It commits its signers to end slavery, torture, unequal protection of law. It commits them to providing trials for the accused in which innocence is presumed until disproved. It promises that each country will honor our freedom to own property and to associate peacefully and to vote. It says we all have a right to work, and to be paid equally for that work and to a decent standard of living. It commits its member countries to providing free elementary education. And it promises the people of member nations the right to marry [see more on that, below].
The actual individuals who voted in the General Assembly that day weren't themselves enslaved. They mostly had never personally experienced torture. If their nations' laws contained inequities, they were the beneficiaries of those inequities! They had not been jailed without trial. Most owned property already and associated with whomever they chose. Most were married. They already had their educations and every single one had a job that paid well ... as ambassador to the U.N.
Many ambassadors represented countries where everyone was already allowed to vote. Women had had that right in the U.S. since 1920 and African-Americans had, in theory, since 1870, although practically speaking it would not be until the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Federal government would outlaw literacy tests and other racially discriminatory devices, and guarantee direct federal supervision of voter registration, voting procedures, and elections in every state. [For more on African-American suffrage, go to:] And some would argue that in 2004, inequities in polling equipment continue to disenfranchise millions of people living in poorer jurisdictions.
That said, these were people, mostly men, of great privilege. They acted 58 years ago today on behalf of the rights of people with a lot less privilege. They acted as our allies. Now, granted, they made promises that have yet to be fulfilled in many, many cases. But we owe a debt of gratitude to those who made those promises. It's our job to carry on their work and insist that our nations live up to those promises. Which brings us to the next question ...
(5) How is December 10th, International Human Rights Day, a day for discussing marriage equality?
This is a day about many rights and freedoms. The right to marry is one of them. Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States (and all its brother/sister members of the U.N.) promised its people these things in Article 16:
"Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution."
"Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses." [Note that even in 1948 the spouses' genders were not limited by this document.]
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