Featured speaker: Athena Jeanne Zeiter-Hale, “Compromise and Cooperation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Reevaluating Eleanor Roosevelt’s Contributions and How International, Intercultural Cooperation Created a Truly Secular Document”
Community moment: Joslyn Rose
Musical guest: John Mueter
Conventional wisdom on the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948 argues that Eleanor Roosevelt’s appointment as a delegate to the United Nations was a mostly symbolic gesture, that while she contributed greatly as an organizer and advocate for the UDHR, she contributed very little intellectually, and that the finished document was heavily influenced by Western Powers with little input from the Global South and developing countries. Athena will challenge all of these ideas by detailing Eleanor Roosevelt’s decades-long background in the ideological development of human rights leading up to the 1948 UDHR, explaining how some of the most important contributions to the Declaration were non-Western, and explaining how the emphasis on universality, international cooperation, and compromise created a document with truly secular principles.
About the speaker:
Athena Jeanne Zeiter-Hale (she/her/hers) received her bachelor of arts in History from Stetson University in 2016. As an undergraduate, she won a research grant proposal contest, which allowed her to travel to the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York, and spend three weeks in the archives researching Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership as chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and the drafting and adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Athena’s finished capstone project won the “History Manuscript of the Year” Award at Stetson University and was presented at the 2015 National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Spokane, Washington. Since college, Athena has worked as a political organizer in Philadelphia during the 2016 General Election, served for a year in AmeriCorps working with Multicultural Students at her alma mater, coordinated the 2019 New Jersey Trans Youth Forum, and most recently works as the Visitor Services and Community Outreach Representative and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Athena lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where she plans to continue her Eleanor Roosevelt and Human Rights work in grad school in the near future.