International Human Rights Conference
VOTE: Human Rights in Action
13th Annual Human Rights Conference
October 6, 2020
To celebrate National Voter Education Week, the Human Rights Institute at Kean University is proud to present the 13th annual Human Rights Conference, VOTE: Human Rights in Action.
You may recall that the Conference was originally scheduled for Friday, March 27, 2020, and was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our newly-imagined program has been pre-recorded, and is available on-demand to the general public.
It consists of four segments, varying in length from 15 to 30 minutes, which can be watched all at once or one at a time, and comes with discussion questions that can augment in-class instruction or serve as homework assignments. Complementary, age-appropriate lesson plans are also available.
We hope that our Conference is both educational and inspirational, and encourages everyone who is eligible to register to vote, make a voting plan, and cast your ballot.
Throughout history, people all around the world have had to fight for the right to vote. However, universal suffrage is not yet a reality. In addition, where it is, access to both registration and voting are often limited. Some countries allow their citizens to vote, but do not hold elections. Others hold elections, but place barriers between citizens and the voting booth. Here in the United States, we take voting for granted. Just 59.7% of eligible voters participated in the 2016 presidential election, while just 46.1% of young people cast a ballot. Our vote is the most powerful instrument we have to fight injustice, and to ensure human rights for all.
If you would like to have a member of the Human Rights Team or the Kean University Voting Squad visit your classroom or organization to speak more about voting as a human right, please email HumanRights@Kean.edu.
VOTE: HUMAN RIGHTS IN ACTION 2020 PLAYLIST
Discussion Questions: October 2020
The theme of this year’s Conference is VOTE: Human Rights in Action. This was based on Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.” Here in the United States we focus on voting as a civil right. In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that the right to vote was our most important civil right.
Discuss the difference between human rights and civil rights, and where you think the right to vote falls.
On February 26, 1965, Jimmie Lee Jackson, a Black civil rights activist from Marion, Alabama, was shot and killed by an Alabama state trooper while participating in a peaceful voting rights march. His death inspired the March 7, 1965 civil rights march, which came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” While the US has made strides in terms of civil rights, this past summer was marked by protests around the country in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement.
What do you think can be done to end this cycle of violence and bring peaceful change to our country?
There is a lot of discussion about the lack of information around voting, including when elections are, who is running, what initiatives are on the ballot and even how and where to vote.
Whose responsibility, do you think it is, to make sure voters are educated?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said: “The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and Senators, and Congressmen and Government officials but the voters of the country.” However, many people who don’t vote say they don’t believe their vote will make a difference.
Do you agree with that assessment? What or who would inspire you to vote? What do you think can be done to open the electoral process to include new, younger and more diverse candidates?
As discussed by all the Conference speakers, voter suppression can take many forms, and is pf particular concern in the upcoming election due, in part, to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Why do you think people want to limit who can vote? What can each of us do to make sure that everyone who wants to vote is able to?
In his last message to the American people published shortly after his death in July 2020, Congressman John Lewis wrote to the young people of our country. He said: “When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last, and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war.”
How are you using your voice to make this happen?
Americans have long looked to our sports heroes for comfort in times of distress. We cheered the Mets when they took the field wearing ball caps emblazoned with the logos of the NYPD, FDNY and Port Authority following September 11. We celebrated the Japanese women’s national soccer team even as they defeated the US women in the 2011 World Cup, knowing the importance of the win for a country devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukashima nuclear disaster. And New Orleans Saints fans will never forget the team’s commitment to the Big Easy following Hurricane Katrina.
With so many professional teams advocating on behalf of social justice and actively hosting voter registration and education drives, do you think we will see greater voter turnout in November?
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to social justice activists. Throughout history, many people have taken up the responsibility of advancing human rights, from Cyrus the Great to Muhammad in the ancient and pre-modern eras, to today’s young human rights activists including Greta Thuberg, Jamie Margolin, Mari Copeny, Xiye Bastida, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and Delaney Tarr.
Who is your human rights activist role model, and why?
Following the civil war, there was a movement to disenfranchise people with felony convictions in America. This seems, however, to counter Section 1 of the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution, which states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the US or by any state on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
What do you think are the pros and cons of felony disenfranchisement? Should the right to vote be restored, and at what point?
Please feel free to share your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured on our website!
RESOURCES FOR EDUCATORS OCTOBER 2020
Thanks to our friends from Teaching Tolerance for these timely classroom resources.
Reading and discussing an article from The Marshall Project, students learn about voting rights for incarcerated people and discuss questions of voting rights more broadly.
Use Teaching Tolerance’s new resource ‘Selma Online’ to help students build decision-making, leadership, activism and civic engagement skills at their own pace.
It’s a common misconception that the only thing stopping people from voting is laziness. But voter suppression is real, and your students need to understand how it happens.
Welcome to the Future Voters Project! We hope you’ll join us as we work toward our goal of registering all eligible students by the time they graduate high school.
Join the Future Voters Project and we’ll keep you updated weekly with resources for teaching about voting rights and registering young voters in an election year unlike any other.
Launched in 2018, Teaching Tolerance’s Voting and Voices project features some of our favorite resources for empowering elementary and middle school students to become advocates for voting in their communities.