July 2022

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I just read psychologist Mary Pipher’s NY Times Opinion piece titled It’s Possible to Balance Despair With Joy. What intrigued me to read through it were such statements as:
“Many of us feel we are walking through sludge. This strange inertia comes from the continuing pandemic, a world at war and the mass shootings of shoppers, worshipers and school children… As we are pummeled daily with traumatic information, more and more of us shut down emotionally… We are not apathetic; we are overwhelmed. Our symptoms resemble those of combat fatigue.” I could not help but personally relate to this assessment.

Ms. Pipher points out among other wise recommendations,

“Psychology teaches that the best way to cope with suffering is to face it… We reach out to our friends and family. We find a way to help another person. Action is always an antidote to despair.”

Photo of ROP class some standing and some kneeling with hands and fists upFrom Anger to Action, our recent project with Arroyo High School seniors, provides an encouraging and inspiring example of how we can acknowledge and then convert our worries and concerns toward positive action. Over the course of 5 weeks, from February 15th to March 18th, using the UDHR as our framework, we guided the students to identify and prioritize the community issues of greatest concern to them, to develop strategies to address these concerns, and then to deepen their understanding of how knowledge of human rights directly inspires and connects with social justice advocacy. I encourage you to watch the video of the culminating presentation and interactive discussion that followed to gain inspiration for your own individual and collective action.

The July 4th holiday celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which sets forth the principles that all of us are created equal, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We are currently facing many challenges to the upholding of these principles, some of which were pointed out by the Arroyo students in their assessment of community issues of concern. Though many of us may feel worn down and discouraged by what we see, we can take heart from the words and actions of the students to consider ways to speak up to our representatives to push for needed legislative and policy shifts, as well as to connect with others to forge collective action to right the wrongs we see.

Take a look at the Resources we offer to support your individual and collective efforts. As we celebrate the best of what July 4th represents, we can recognize that it took major collective effort in 1776 to bring about the signing of the Declaration, and even more collective effort since then to achieve the constitutional amendments and legislation that have brought about the end to slavery and set forth the rights of all people to vote and to enjoy full participation in our society without discrimination. Rather than feel overwhelmed by what we see as threats to these achievements, this is as good an occasion as ever to renew our spirit and energy to take individual and collective action to realize the full potential of what a more perfect Union could be.

With appreciation and best regards,

Sandy Sohcot, Director

Using the UDHR to Guide Positve Action