The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A sleepless night wandering about the Web delivered this 1949 photo of Eleanor Roosevelt holding a poster of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which she considered her greatest legacy:

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.

After the act was passed on December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly urged all nations “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions.”

I don’t recall a poster of the Declaration ever hanging in one of my classrooms. Ashamed to admit it, I know I’ve never even read the full text of this historic document — even though I’ve watched these videos from Andy’s 60th anniversary post. So I did, and it took me less than five minutes. Five minutes! And I’m 40 years old.

I’m struck by the richness of its language — “human family,” “universal respect,” “spirit of brotherhood,” “security of person” — as I read the news about Haiti and its people, the tumultuous debate about the rights and privileges extended to homosexual couples, or the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here are a few articles that especially resonated with me:

Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 15. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

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. … The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 26. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Article 29. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

Human Rights Day, 1950
Eleanor Roosevelt, chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission, visits with Nasrollah Entezam, president of the fifth session of the General Assembly and Marian Anderson, American contralto, on Human Rights Day in 1950. (United Nations)

Share Your Reflection



In a different era, Eleanor Roosevelt could have been President.

Ditto Krista- I was thinking the same- I've never seen it posted in a school, church or public space.

Printing it out now, for the road.

Thanks for sharing and continuing to shine a light on that which matters

Every people has their own right in the society! Long live the Human Rights and all the people who's behind of it.

Nachise, in her time and generation Eleanor Roosevelt was seriously considered for a presidential run. Amazing woman.

These articles speak to everyone.... whether it is to the Haitians, the Palestinians, the French, the Gays, the Women of countries where they have no rights... equal universal rights are due to all of the human family. Let us live with the first thought being "compassion" for our fellow humans!

Your web link is wrong. You need to remove the "0" in the "www0." Beyond that it is a needed and vital document that I agree was one of Madam former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's great legacy. Her heart, caring and loving nature will echo in the long as we print out, go get, and remember the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the incredible heroic American who helped bring write what the world need fight for. Good night.