On Friday, we were honored to welcome United States President Joe Biden to the University of Connecticut, where he joined students, faculty, staff, supporters, the Dodd family and leaders from all over. our state for the dedication of the Dodd Center for Human Rights. As leaders of the human rights program here at UConn, we offer these reflections on President Biden’s speech, which is one of the most important of his presidency when it comes to human rights.
The President reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to a rules-based international order and to multilateral and peaceful work to promote human rights and the rule of law. President Biden has said he has put human rights back “at the center of our foreign policy.” He pledged to speak, “to our friends and to our adversaries,” whenever “we see our fellow human beings being dehumanized.” He drew this lesson from the International Military Tribunals in Nuremberg, after World War II: “Your silence is complicity.
The President’s commitment to education on the Holocaust and genocide was communicated with a strong personal touch: “… [W]When each of my children and now my grandchildren are 15, the first thing I did, my word as Biden, was put them on a plane and fly to Dachau. One at a time, at 15… Nuremberg was unlike anything that had happened before. It was not about revenge; it was a question of responsibility. For it is only by recognizing the truth that we can prevent the recurrence of atrocities that are occurring in other parts of the world today. “
While addressing this critical lesson from Nuremberg – that only by facing history can we hope to overcome it – the president also recognized that our own past is one of broken promises in the realization of human rights. all. “We have never,” said the president, “fully live up to this animating American ideal.” It is only by facing this truth that we can continue to bend the bow “closer and closer to righteousness.”
Critically, President Biden acknowledged that human rights begin with us: “Today we know that our efforts to defend human rights around the world are strong because we recognize our own challenges. historical within the framework of the same fight. Racial and gender equity, equality of justice, and protection of the “sacred right to vote in free, fair and secure elections” are all human rights challenges that we must address. Beyond civil and political rights, the president noted that the fight against child poverty in the United States must be seen in the context of “our mission to defend human rights and dignity at home and in the world” . These efforts are what he describes as “leading by the power of our example, rather than by the example of our power.”
Towards the end of his remarks, President Biden clarified the historical issues of our present moment. “[H]human rights and democratic principles are increasingly under attack ”at home and abroad. “Nothing in our democracy is guaranteed,” said the president, “Nothing in our freedom is guaranteed. We have to work for it.
The Institute of Human Rights is prepared for this work. As much as the day recognized the accomplishments of our programs since the inauguration of the Dodd Center in 1995, it also marked the beginning of the next chapter of human rights at UConn. Our faculty conducts research and teaching courses that address the most pressing human rights challenges from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives. Our students develop the knowledge, skills and values necessary for the practice of human rights in a variety of professions. And we’re engaged in collaboration with community partners across Connecticut and around the world to build a broader culture of human rights. We hope you will join this human rights work for the next generation.
Catherine Libal, Director, Institute of Human Rights
Glenn mitoma, Director, Dodd Human Rights Impact, Human Rights Institute
Daniel Weiner, Vice President for Global Affairs
Richard Wilson, Gladstein Distinguished Chair and Founding Director of the Human Rights Institute