Human Rights Commission celebrates 50th anniversary

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/22/98.

Dec. 10 marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declara-tion of Human Rights by the United Nations. The declaration guarantees the rights of all people and encompasses a broad spectrum of economic, social, cultural, political, and civil rights.

ďIn London, the declaration of human rights was big news when I was there recently,Ē Joe Voss, chairman of the Paynesville Human Rights Commission, said.

ďIn the United States, the event receives little or no attention. Every country in the world has adopted the declaration section for the ďrights of the childĒ with the exception of two: the United States and a small African country,Ē Voss added. ďMany people in the United States feel it would violate parental rights if it were adopted in its entirety.Ē

Voss added that many people in the United States remain unaware of the Declaration of Human Rights or the foundation of other human rights.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a supporter of human rights around the world. She stated: ďWhere, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home...Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, the 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 concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the Ďlarge world.íĒ

Paynesville formed a Human Rights Commission in 1995. The commission is designed to provide services and assistance to individuals and groups of Paynesville residents in an effort to enhance human rights and to prevent discrimination.

Since its formation, they have brought speakers into the Paynesville Area High School to talk about disabilities, sexual assault, and volunteerism. The commission has also sponsored a poster contest and floats in the Paynesville Town and Country Days parade.
New this year will be an essay contest which will be introduced to seventh and eighth grade students through their communicatons classes to make them familiar with universal human rights. The winning essay of the local contest will advance to the state contest where the grand prize is $500.

Seventh and eighth grade students will be asked towrite an essay on the following statement: If you look at the attitudes and values of your family or your immediate neighbors, there may be some things that are said or done that are not consistent with the rights that are given to all of us. What can you do if the following situation occurs: a family ďdifferentĒ from your family moves onto your street. Someone in your family or your next door neighbor makes negative comments about this new family because of its differences.

In 1997, the Paynesville Human Rights Commission established the Ruth Aulick Award. The goal of the commis-sion is to recognize an individual, group, or business that has made a contribution to the promotion of understanding and cooperation between people of different backgrounds.

Ruth Aulick was the recipient of the first award in 1997. This year, the commission is inviting nominations from the public. The committee reserves the right not to give any award in a given year if they donít feel the nominations meet their criteria.

Members of the Paynesville Human Rights Commission are: Joe and Sue Voss, Jean Soine, Tony Schmitt, Father Richard Leisen, Shari Liebl, Howard Caldwell, Allison Thompson, and Mary Frandson.

Another goal of the commission is to establish a human rights material section at the public library. The commission will be ordering materials and brochures for people to read and take home.

Father Leisen and Voss said people can obtain more information about human rights through Human Rights USA, a resource center and website which will help further human rights education: www.hrusa.org or by calling toll free 1-888-HREDUC8

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