Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Human rights are everyone's rights.

I was rather totally taken by Ken Burns' series, "The Roosevelts" last week.  I started reading more about some of the issues raised in the series, and have been particularly taken by how relevant Eleanor Roosevelt's small book, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for A More Fulfilling Life is today -- even though it was published in 1960.  As I watched the series, I tried to mark the differences in how technology operated then and now, knowing that a key reason FDR was able to enter us into war with Congress' consent was because there was a certain vacuum, or time lag, in when information, especially nasty information, was delivered.  As I read the book, I marveled at how little the human spirit has changed over the years and how adept she is at identifying those ideas and beliefs that draw us together. 

It covers such topics as how to be of use and comments on everything from overcoming shyness to raising children to be part of the world.  It includes sections in nearly every chapter on her fundamental commitment to human rights and to enlarging one's world view.  I have been particularly taken by her comments on the role of women, and how important it is for them to be part of the world, even while they raise children.

I doubt there is ever a woman who has ever better understood her purpose than Eleanor Roosevelt.  She may have wanted to hide many times, but she never did.  Despite ridicule and even hatred, she took her place -- and, because she did, I am able to teach a wonderful document called the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, created as one of the first products of the new organization after World War II.  That declaration, like our own U.S. Declaration of Independence, begins at the right level, with a grand and sweeping tone:

"Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world;"

It is especially of interest to me as I teach my first class of the quarter today in the course called "Policy, Law and Ethics in Information Management"  We're actually going to read the Declaration of Independence together, out loud, sentence by sentence.  And talk about how the U.S. government is structured so as to produce checks and balances, and to guarantee certain "unalienable rights, and that among them are the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."  That's from memory, so I may not have it quite right.

I do not envy President Obama his job today, as he launches attacks against both ISIL (everyone does agree that ISIL is real, in part because of their effective use of YouTube and other forms of social media), and deploys military units to help organize the containment of Ebola in Western Africa.  Every move he makes is scrutinized closely. He lacks wriggle room.  And he clearly knows more than he is telling us about just how bad the threats are at this point.