Better Leadership is Needed Where Human Rights are Concerned

I’ve spent the week hearing about human rights issues, and, as usual, I am left underwhelmed.

Surely, Martin Luther King Jr. is one of our country’s most remarkable heroes, and it’s fitting that we discuss human rights issues during the week when we celebrate his life, but I think that our conversations have stopped being useful. All I ever hear is, “we have a long way to go,” or “there’s still work to do,” but nothing specific – and it’s been this way my whole life.

I’m 31. I’m not old, and I do not suffer under any illusion that my age makes me wise, but in all of those years I’ve never heard a civic leader outline what actually needs to be done in the arena of human rights. In older times, our leaders could set out specific goals, such as ensuring that everyone had the right to vote, or that everyone could apply for the same job. Today, it’s just pretty, aimless rhetoric.

I’d like to know what we are trying to accomplish in 2013. If there are still problems, then let’s discuss them specifically and outline real solutions, instead of vaguely referencing these “serious issues” without naming them or attempting to fix them. If there’s still a lot of work to do then we won’t make any progress until better leadership comes along to show us the way. (In my more cynical moments, I wonder if some of these people are just making speeches about human rights so they can be on the news and seem relevant.)

It’s not possible for us to accomplish anything without a real goal set before us. Will human rights stories always resemble “puff pieces” from the back of a newspaper, or can we change the conversation and make progress, again?

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