Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hailing human rights

This past weekend, I attended the "Change Our World" celebration--the annual fundraiser for the Idaho Human Rights Education Center, an organization whose board I serve on. It was a wonderful evening during which we paid tribute to Holocaust survivor and human rights memorial docent Rose Beal and heard from Dr. Linda Ricketts, the keynote speaker and a distinguished humanitarian and educator. After inspiring the crowd with her words, Dr. Ricketts then dazzled the crowd by belting out jazz standards while sitting in with the New Trio combo.

On a related note, I was up in Coeur d'Alene last week and had the privilege of visiting the Human Rights Education Institute there. It's an impressive facility that currently houses an exhibit honoring some of the world's great advocates for peace.

Equality, justice, opportunity, and fairness are all values that will guide and inform my work in the Legislature. Human rights is very much a political issue. And given Idaho's reputation as a haven for bigotry and intolerance (a reputation that isn't always deserved but is prevalent nonetheless), ensuring that our lawmakers protect and secure human rights for all the state's citizens is an economic issue as well. We will not succeed in a global economy if we fail to extend equality to all Idahoans, regardless of race, color, gender, creed, and sexual orientation. We cannot succeed if we fail to acknowledge and understand our state's growing diversity, and the challenges and (more importantly) opportunities that such diversity offers.

Our Legislature has a pretty poor record on these issues, often choosing to divide and marginalize certain segments of our population. But I believe that economic, demographic, and social trends will compel the Legislature to begin thinking in new ways about human rights.

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