By Duane Paul Murphy
Princeton University professor, Dr. Robert George; and Director of the Program in Human Rights at the university’s Institute for Human Ecology, William L. Saunders, Jr were joined by over 50 students, faculty and staff on Thursday, September 20, at Father O’Connell Hall for a conservation panel on human rights and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
At the beginning of the event, Saunders announced the creation of a new masters program in human rights. The new program will have a Catholic perspective and will draw from five schools at the Catholic University of America including the Schools of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, Law, Canon Law, and Arts and Sciences.
George was previously chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom during the Obama administration and is a current member of the President’s Council on Bioethics created by the George W. Bush administration. Throughout the event, he emphasized how various world leaders, including former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, came from different faith and spiritual belief backgrounds in the aftermath of World War II to form a modern universal document promoting human dignity and rights for all people around the world.
George said that prominent figures such as Lebanese diplomat Charles Malik, Chinese diplomat Peng Chun Chang, and “so many others come together across those historical lines of cultural and religious difference to affirm the basic dignity of the human being and basic human rights.”
“That bill is an achievement,” George said. “That’s something worth celebrating.”
George further went on say that people of extraordinary talents from medical doctors to professional major league athletes are equal in dignity and respect to those with other backgrounds such as disabled persons. He also further emphasized how Christian teachings on the value of human life and dignity were some of the major influences behind the contemporary concepts of human rights in the modern world.
Students in attendance at the event appreciated George’s analysis on interfaith influences on the Declaration and overall human rights.
“My favorite point of Dr. George’s presentation is when he highlighted how several competing ideologies and faiths came together to affirm common human interests,” said junior politics and theology major William Deatherage. “I think this is a very important notion, since it encourages all people, regardless of background, to listen to each other’s ideas. It’s relevant to us as students because it encourages to listen to each other more. We all, regardless of upbringing and major, have valuable contributions to make to discourse both on campus and in the world.”