TWAICB Director Sandy Sohcot writes: With the constant barrage of disturbing news, I have found myself calling upon the familiar Grateful Dead refrain “If you get confused, listen to the music play,” finding it all the more relevant and inspiring today!

Summer Insitute 2017 participants group photoLast week, after reading this NPR article about increased stress levels among high school students across the country, I spoke to Ellen Sebastian Chang, TWAICB’s Creative Director (behind me in this group photo of our Summer Institute participants) since our program’s 2006 inception. I wanted to explore with Ellen how our UDHR work could help address not only the issues causing so much youth anxiety, but also the increasingly confusing social-political environment we’re in, and the floating anxiety it generates.

Ellen noted, “Many of us are emotionally wound up.  We’re challenged by the questioning of truth, how to fully understand the history that has led us to where we are, and how to remain steady when it feels like everything is breaking apart.”  

We agreed that this is the time to focus on connecting, face-to-face, and consider the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, spoken in a 1958 speech delivered on the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR:

Eleanor Roosevelt with UDHRWhere, after all, do universal human 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; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, 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.

To this end, Ellen and I are planning a 1-day public convening for March 2018, where we’ll bring members of the community together to consider how to apply UDHR principles “in small places close to home.”

As this is getting organized, we would like to suggest to you – as teachers, students, organization leaders, friends, collaborators and supporters – some ways to put aside the confusion and take in the “music” of personal, face-to-face connection to help focus on where we can make a difference. We hope these ideas lead to some helpful discussions.

Though we are in tumultuous times right now, Ellen and I believe it is vital that we maintain a spirit of persistence to work toward achievement of the world envisioned by the UDHR, with strength and empathy, and commitment to personal connection, in line with Margaret Mead’s famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”™