Monday, July 3, 2017

Mrs. Roosevelt Speaks

In need of some perspective this 4th of July?  Check out Eleanor Roosevelt's "My Day" newspaper column from July 4, 1945, here, focusing on the central importance of human rights on Independence Day. 

The column certainly shows that times can blind.  For example, Roosevelt makes the fictional claim that "because our continent was such a vast one to develop, there was room for the development of property and its protection and we did not greatly harm the rights of human  beings." Further, she un-self-consciously reinforces the notion that men alone are the world's actors, beginning with "[a]ll over the world our men will observe the Fourth of July."

At the same time, she argues that the Declaration of Independence rests on the idea that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" should be available to all, and that the Fourth of July is (or should be) at "day on which we glorify human rights."

Seventy-two years after Mrs. Roosevelt wrote this column -- with all of its insensitivities -- the baton is now in our hands. The challenges have seldom been greater and perhaps, with eyes wide open and with the world at our fingertips, we can see them more clearly now.  We can hope that historians will look back decades from now and be able to see that 2017 was a period of human rights struggle, but also the beginning of something important.

Happy 4th of July!

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