Vietnam Human Rights Award 2008 Keynote Speech

By Dr.  Mary Shuttleworth*



Thank you for that kind introduction!

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen it is an honor to participate in the Vietnamese Human Rights Awards Ceremony as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I would like to congratulate the awardees, the Venerable Thich Thien Minh, journalist Nguyen Van Hai, as well as the Freedom of the Press magazine.

I would like to commend the Vietnam Human Rights Network under the excellent guidance of the president, Professor Thanh Trang Nguyen for your vision, dedication and tenacity to promote non-violence and human rights both in Vietnam and countries around the world.

In the 20th and 21st Centuries we can be proud of many great accomplishments.

We now have cures for diseases once dreaded and fatal. Transport is now not only fueled by fossil fuel but magnetic levitation, solar energy, bio diesel and even water.

Cell phones, Internet and e-mails keep us in communication at the speed of light.

Nanotechnology promises a whole new level of development and advance.

Sadly, there is another side to this -- people’s inhumanity to others during this same century could be compared with pre-historic times.

Human rights abuses including genocide, the use of children as young as 8 or younger as child soldiers, gut wrenching reports of cannibalism, and the International Modern-day Slavery, now the second largest income source on the black market, threaten the lives of millions and leave death and human misery in their wake.   

In the bloody aftermath of World War II, the United Nations, under the guidance of the Former First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, signed into existence the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and called upon all member countries to publicize the text and: “cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”

YHRI was founded upon those very principles. The purpose of YHRI is to teach youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Thousands of YHRI volunteers have reached youth in schools, universities, youth groups, community centers in over 80 countries resulting in more than 180 groups, clubs and chapters around the world.

We realize that children who do not know their rights are vulnerable. Children who know their rights can protect and defend their rights for themselves and their peers. As much as we have progressed, our children face bullying, Internet bullying, domestic violence, gang violence, and we have buried too many of our children for no good reason. Today I urge you to join in and empower our precious youth with the knowledge of their basic human rights. We can teach our youth the vision of our First Lady 60 short years ago:

“Where, after all, do Universal 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; 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 larger world.”

In the 21st Century, our advances in human rights should exceed our greatest expectations of our technological advances. Our children deserve the best future we can give them.

Humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard wrote, “Human rights must be made a fact, not an idealistic dream.”

Thank you!




* Dr. Mary Shuttleworth is Founder & Director of Youth for Human Rights International


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