Monday, January 30, 2012

Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appeared before the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, this past December to speak in celebration of Human Rights Day. Human Rights Day honors the moment in 1948 when, after several years of debate and deliberation, the UN voted to ratify a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirming that all human beings on earth are "born free and equal in dignity and rights," and that governments cannot remove or assign those rights, but instead have a responsibility to protect them for ALL citizens under their care.

Incredibly powerful stuff. In many ways, this declaration came decades ahead of its time--many of the countries that voted in favor of it had yet to recognize the full citizenship of all their people. We still had segregation in the southern U.S., repressive colonialism existed throughout much of Africa, and women still fought for gender equality all over the globe. But the declaration passed, I imagine because of the inherent truth of it, in spite of the fact that the world leaders of the day could not have comprehended the vast significance their affirmation would take on in the decades to come.

Secretary Clinton spent her time at the podium last month articulating the vastly important message that leaders are supposed to lead, often in big bold strokes that their people may not be ready for. She focuses on how, for all the progress that we've made worldwide in the past century securing human rights for women, indigenous people, racial and ethnic minorities, religious groups, and people with disabilities, there is another group that has yet to be fully recognized as deserving of human rights--gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Her speech is mind-blowing. It is clear, direct, simple yet challenging...and honest. It gets to the heart of the questions that people on all sides of the sexuality issue ask, and the beliefs they hold dear, and begins to grapple with them--the way we all are going to need to speak within public discourse if additional progress is ever to be made.

I happen to adore Hillary, but even if you don't, you should watch this speech from beginning to end, and listen. It's thirty minutes long, but well worth it. She transcends politics here, in a way that we need many more of our politicians to do. And she's right. Changes are coming, and I, for one, want to "be on the right side of history."

What did you think of this speech?

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