Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was First Lady of the United States from 1933-1945 during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. As chair of the newly formed United Nations committee to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she played a key role in securing the passage of the charter. In 1958, Roosevelt delivered a speech in Paris entitled “The Struggle for Human Rights,” that aimed to persuade UN member states to vote for the Declaration. Roosevelt’s speech was especially targeted at the Soviet bloc, which criticized the Declaration’s emphasis on individual rights over collective rights. Roosevelt’s rebuttal to these criticisms lays out the fundamental importance of individual liberties and of putting power in the hands of the people. Speaking in the shadow of the atrocities of World War II, Roosevelt warned: “we must not be deluded by the efforts of the forces of reaction to prostitute the great words of our free tradition and thereby to confuse the struggle. Democracy, freedom, human rights have come to have a definite meaning to the people of the world which we must not allow any nation to so change that they are made synonymous with suppression and dictatorship.” Although it is not a legally binding document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has served as a basis for scores of national and international human rights laws and conventions since 1948.
Tavaana Publications Click here to read Tavaana’s exclusive translation of “The Struggle for Human Rights,” by Eleanor Roosevelt.