“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was a leader against the apartheid in South Africa and eventually became the country’s first black head of state, as well as the country’s first official elected through a truly democratic system. This quote is one of his most famous sayings, coming from his book Long Walk to Freedom, an autobiography about his struggle against racism and apartheid. Mandela’s story and ideals became an inspiration for human rights and civil rights activists around the world to continue working towards equality and freedom. To this day, he is still regarded as one of the most influential human rights activists in history.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American minister and civil rights activist who used his platform to promote non-violent protest and civil rights equality in the US throughout the 50s and 60s. This quote is from his most famous “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Across the world, this speech has been recognized for its timelessness and inspiration to civil rights activists everywhere. MLK effectively shaped the future of civil rights in the US, helping to move the country’s policies along towards better equality for all races.
“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 maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt served the US and the world in many capacities, including First Lady, United States Delegate to the UN General Assembly, Chair and US Representative of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. She moved human rights, particularly women’s rights, forward in many ways. This quotes was said by Roosevelt during a speech commemorating the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which she oversaw the drafting. Roosevelt’s work with human rights throughout the world made a lasting impact both then and now, especially as she emphasized the importance of human rights on both the small and big scales.
“We call upon all communities to be tolerant—to reject prejudice based on cast, creed, sect, religion or gender. To ensure freedom and equality for women so that they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” -Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani human rights activist, famously said this quote at the first ever UN Youth Takeover event. Malala is known as a champion for women’s and girl’s rights, especially in Middle Eastern societies. This quote has been used to point out the importance of creating opportunities for women and girls to succeed in order to create better, stronger communities and societies. Malala’s work in women’s rights activism inspired many other young people to become activists and continues to inspire women’s rights activists and others today.
“To those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, let me say: You are not alone. Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle. Any attack on you is an attack on the universal values the United Nations and I have sworn to defend and uphold. Today, I stand with you, and I call upon all countries and people to stand with you, too.” -Ban Ki-Moon
Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon opened up a Human Rights Council session in 2012 with a speech that included this quote specifically addressing discrimination against the LGBTQ communities. This quote marked an important moment in the UN’s history of protecting LGBTQ rights, as it was the first Human Rights Council session held to discuss these issues. Ban Ki-Moon’s work on LGBTQ rights during his time as UN Secretary General helped shift the rights of these communities to be seen as human rights, when they were previously regarded separately. Ban Ki-Moon’s statement to the Human Rights Council further solidified his commitment to continue to move the UN towards greater protection for LGBTQ rights, which has had a major impact on other relevant organizations and activists working on these and related issues.