In Your Hands (Where do human rights begin?)

SSAA Chorus, Narrator, Vibraphone, Piano

This rousing 6-min piece with narration drawn from Eleanor Roosevelt's speeches evokes the “can do” spirit of this extraordinary woman who fought tirelessly for equality and fundamental freedoms for all people. Eleanor Roosevelt asks the question, "Where do human rights begin?" and answers, "In your hands." Invite your local politician to narrate Eleanor's words about freedom, justice, and community action. Use the built-in vamps to raise awareness for a special project or issue. Feature a soulful soloist on lyrics from Eleanor's commencement speech "May you go forth with courage..."

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MUSE: Cincinnati's Women's Choir
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MUSE: Cincinnati's Women's Choir
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Dr. Catherine Roma, Artistic Director
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From speeches and writings of Eleanor Roosevelt (additional lyrics: Eric Bartlett)

NARRATOR: I am here on behalf of thirty-two national organizations representing millions of citizens -- of all faiths; of every complexion; in all parts of the United States. The devotion of so many Americans to human rights is symbolized by this spontaneous and resounding answer to the United Nations' call for world-wide observances of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe that the destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Without concerted citizen action to uphold [these rights] close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. 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 map 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. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.

Where do human rights begin?

Not in a corporate boardroom,
Not from a lawmaker's pen,
Nor from a thundering gavel
Judging our women and men.

(refrain) Where do human rights begin? your hands, in your hands
In the hands of ev'ry citizen. your hands, in your hands
Unless these rights have meaning there,
They have little meaning anywhere.
Where do human rights begin?
In your hands.

Hands clasp hands in greeting
In factory, school and field.
In small places close to Home,
Our pact of Love is sealed.

NARRATOR: One of the fundamental human rights is freedom for the individual. Freedom can never be absolute because it must be consistent with the freedom of others. (4) Everyone's liberty is conditioned by the rights of other people. (5) But the more observance there is of human rights - the more freedom the individual will have.

Freedom can never be absolute,
It must align with the freedom of others.
When Liberty rings from a broken Bell
It must be forged anew, to ring out true
For all our sisters and brothers...

Reach across the barriers,
Through the spaces that divide
To grasp the hands of strangers
And become a rising tide.

May you go forth with courage, persistence and joy,
Faith in the future no fear can destroy,
With a purpose that's pure and good, with a strength beyond your own,
May you always be striving for something you can't do alone.

See the icy ramparts melt
When our hands embrace.
Throw open wide the steely doors
Rend the thawing gates!


From Eleanor Roosevelt's presentation of "IN YOUR HANDS: A Guide for Community Action for the Tenth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" 27 March, 1958. United Nations, New York; ER's speech 10 Dec 1949, Carnegie Hall, NY on the first anniversary of the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights; ER's "Remarks to the Americans for Democratic Action on Individual Liberty" 2 April 1950, Washington, DC; and ER's Commencement Address at Sarah Lawrence College, 7 June 1957, Bronxville, NY. Edited and abridged by Abbie Betinis, with original text by Eric Bartlett. These lyrics are under copyright and may not be reprinted without permission.