Visiting Facing History, A World Made New

Mary Ann Glendon's book makes for worthwhile reading.

I’m back in Brookline for the next few days, helping Mom as she transitions out of rehab and back to her home in Brookline Village.

After a stop to pick up some high-end face cream for her, I visited the national headquarters of Facing History, the building where I used to work and where Dunreith and I met.

It was wonderful to see old friends and colleagues, including Margot Strom, Facing History’s founder.

Margot and Bill Parsons founded the organization in the mid-70s after attending a workshop about the Holocaust and realizing that that history was not being taught.

The organization’s growth has been both steady and remarkable.  Since its inception, Facing History has expanded domestically and internationally.

It’s also broadened the scope of its content from looking first, and almost exclusively, at the Holocaust to cover other examples of mass violence and similar atrocities here in the United States and abroad.

As part of that expansion, Facing History recently developed a study guide on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   Passed in 1948, this seminal document has established a global standard of rights on which many people have drawn during the past six decades.

Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon has written A World Made New, an engaging book that looks closely at the process behind, and substance of, the declaration and Eleanor Roosevelt’s pivotal role in both.

The work was an influential source for Facing History’s writers, and deservedly so.  Glendon did extensive archival research that informed her considerable writing skill to create a memorable story drenched with vital and dynamic characters.

Roosevelt is one of the major ones.

The book opens shortly after her husband’s death, and shows Harry Truman encouraging Roosevelt not to abandon her commitment to social causes because her husband was no longer alive.

Roosevelt eventually acquiesced and threw herself into her new assignment of helping to forge, and then pass, the declaration.

She had plenty of collaborators.

Glendon writes in depth about Rene Cassin, Charles Malik, and P.C. Chang, each of who also played significant roles in the declaration.

Glendon also spend some time at the end discussing some of the objections that were raised at the time and subsequently about the declaration, ultimately rendering her opinion that it was an impressive movement toward greater justice in the world.  She includes a helpful dramatis personae and a number of drafts to which she refers at different points in the book.

Facing History’s offices will be sparsely populated tomorrow in advance of the Memorial Day weekend, so I’m glad I got to connect with folks today.  Reading A World Made New will likely make you glad you spent your time learning about this important development in social justice and the part one of our most contributory First Ladies played in it.


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