December 2023

In celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Blue background with many faces in a line drawingOn December 10th we have the opportunity to celebrate the 75th anniversary of adoption by the UN General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  This is the framework that came about in response to the horrors of World War II, intended to set forth the aspirational set of 30 human rights that, if fully realized, could support a world of peaceful coexistence.

Photograph of Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile during one of the UDHR drafting meetingsFrom the United Nation’s write-up of the History of the UDHR, Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile, member of the drafting sub-Committee, describes some of what the adoption of the UDHR signified:

Photographs of paper drafts of the UDHR on a table I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality.  In the Great Hall…there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting.


Today we find ourselves amidst multiple wars and armed conflicts across the globe, from Armenia and Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict) to Venezuela and Guyana (Essequibo region). Here in the United States we are confronted daily with news about the war between Israel and Hamas in Negev and Gaza. This particular conflict is a source of tremendous emotional upheaval across campuses, in classrooms, on city streets, as well as at dining room tables, and is divisive and fracturing among typically allied organizations and their constituents.

It is difficult to see how we make our way out of this discouraging environment, especially when media messages abound about the extreme polarization in U.S. politics, no less other countries, and cooperation to help solve our global challenges like climate change seems in short supply.  With this writing we aim to offer some hopeful perspectives on what we can consider in our most immediate thinking and in connecting with others, to shift toward the world envisioned by the UDHR.

In March 2023 we published the newsletter shown below, noting the power of narrative to reflect our view of the world.  We suggest that taking in the power of narrative, including appreciation of our own stories and those of others, can make a powerful difference. We want to put forward some ideas about the peace narrative that we can help foster individually and collectively.

As part of work done by, the 2019 essay titled, Building a Peace Narrative, by Charles Eisenstein, provides notable perspective on the “war narrative” we have long been influenced by, along with how to forge the “peace narrative.”  As part of his conclusion, he states:

And, here is a thoughtful piece from Teachers College Columbia University, titled Learning to Communicate Peacefully, by Francisco Gomes de Matos, Ph.D. that provides insightful information we can utilize in our communications to foster the “peace narrative.”

Though we may not be able to directly influence the outcomes of current wars and armed conflicts, we can influence what takes place in our most immediate circles.  How we treat each other across our dining room tables, or as we converse with others about issues of concern, will have ripple effects, optimally toward peace rather than war.  Eleanor Roosevelt says this so well:

Where, 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.

With hope, appreciation and best regards,
Sandy Sohcot, Director

April 2023

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As I watch, read about or listen to various presentations of current events I often hear the term “narrative” to help explain the what the particular news story is about. This has spurred my curiosity about just how various narratives influence our thinking and responses, including, as related to TWAICB, perceptions about the meaning of the term “human rights.” The Narrative Initiative explains,

“From the moment we learn our first words, we absorb thousands of stories that teach us how to live and be in the world. These stories are entrenched with powerful ideas and themes. This is narrative.”

While narrative can have a significant impact on many aspects of our lives, such as how we see ourselves and our relationships with others, in this message I am especially concerned with how narrative influences our views on current social-political-economic dynamics and whether we can muster the will to speak up and take action, individually as well as collectively, rather than feel discouraged or overwhelmed. This Wikipedia “Political Narrative” write-up offers helpful insights about how storytelling, that might be or not be fact-based, by political entities and the media can influence the way we form our opinions about political candidates, members of our communities and proposed policies, such as those that could deal with such issues as gun violence. My take from this is that we must recognize the narratives that influence our ways of thinking, determine fact from fiction, better understand what might motivate these narratives, and then open our minds to new perspectives. To this point, in May 1954, Martin Luther King delivered a sermon he titled, “Mental and Spiritual Slavery” at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. King offers insightful examples of what can influence the narratives people put forward, and then encourages his audience to speak up and act, rather than remain silent.

For the last 30+ years I have enjoyed being part of a friends and family Passover Seder where we tell the traditional story of Moses leading people out of Egypt and their bonds of slavery, and then share ideas about the meaning of freedom, our central theme. A number of years ago I contributed to our freedom discussion the lyrics of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, inspired by the lines, “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, only ourselves can free our minds.” These lines seem even more relevant to me today, as I hear so many comments about the futility of our times, that we’re all so polarized, that so many problems we face, such as climate change are seemingly insurmountable.

A recent Laura Flanders segment features V (formerly Eve Ensler) speaking on “Reckoning With Our Past, Transforming the Future.” V poignantly implores us to open ourselves to envisioning the world we want to live in, to take the risk of seeing these possibilities and then creating pathways to make this happen. She says, “What we cannot see cannot unfold.” To me, this is one way to emancipate ourselves from restrictive narratives and consider how to move forward to address the concerns of our time.

Furthering V’s message, taking inspiration from our youth, I want to reference the recent UDHR Town Hall presented by the juniors of the Developmental Psychology for Adolescents class at Arroyo High School. This year, the students chose the theme Light the Path. During this presentation, students portrayed current situations they are deeply concerned about, such as being fearful of expressing their worries about their gender identity, and how they want to address these concerns. I asked the students during the Q & A period how knowing about the UDHR affected their developing this presentation. One of the students explained that the Articles of the UDHR helped them find a place for where their issues of concern were situated, and that the aspirational right stated in the given Article offered them a “path” to take action.

We offer resources to encourage your own envisioning of the world that is possible to address your areas of concern, as well as to distinguish fact from fiction, and to speak up and take action, individually and collectively.  Our attention and engagement are vital ingredients to furthering what so many before us have done to bring about a world that provides equality, justice and dignity for all people.

With appreciation and best regards,

Sandy Sohcot, Director

Using the UDHR to Guide Positve Action