Quotes/Short Response Section

A number of past and present Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellows were asked to respond to the following human rights- related questions. Their responses, listed below, were varied and unique.

What does the term “human rights” mean to you?


“I work hard to extend the definition of human rights. I think its an educational process. I think that human rights can not remain the purview of lawyers. Human rights are about everyday decisions. The legal definition of human rights has to do with civil and political rights but in my mind the inability of the world’s people to live at a decent wage, with adequate foor for their children is a gross violation of human rights.”

- Pam Costain
Wellston Action
1993 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
Center for Democratic Participation and Development (CENZOTLE)
Esteli, Nicaragua


“Human rights are those rights which you enjoy simply because you are a human being. They are not a privilege. They are a responsibility.”

- Dr. Andrew Conteh
Professor, Moorhead State University
2001 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow/Musser Fellow
City of Moorhead
Moorhead, Minnesota



“I’ve been interested in human rights from an early age because of a history of relating to it. Intrinsically, by being human, you have certain rights. If you take away all the structures of society, what would you have in yourself as a human being? The reason they have to be defined as “human rights” is to guarantee that certain things people are entitled to are not violated by a government or society.”

- Mahmooda Khaliq
Minnesota International Health Volunteers (MIHV)
2003 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
Uganda and Minnesota



“Human rights are the inviolable rights of individuals and peoples.”

- Bridget Coggins
Doctoral Candidate in Political Science, Ohio State University
2000 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland



“Human rights means the dignity of a person, means protecting individual rights, protecting people from any other discrimination that prohibits their rights, and mental damage, that sickens or hurts. My way to respect any individual is to think, ‘I need to respect this individual. I don’t want to harm this person.’ What comes to mind when I think of my childhood is great injustice and discrimination, and I want to promote great dignity.”

-Gabriel Solomon
Student, University of Wisconsin, Madison
2003 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights


“Human rights boil down to just dignity.”

-Robyn Linde
Doctoral candidate in Political Science, University of Minnesota
2004 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights


“I think of expectations for the basic conditions of life. When I think about human rights in Morocco I think about the right to free speech and the right to be treated reasonably and fairly by your government and about women’s issues.”

-Valerie Downing Arnold
Associate Attorney, Thomas Tuft Law Offices
1995 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
Organisation Marocaine des Droits de l’Homme
Rabat, Morocco


“'Human rights' means that each individual should be treated with respect, dignity and equality.”

-Tony Fernandes
United States Diplomat, U.S. Embassy in Moscow
1992 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
South African Council of Churches
Johannesburg, South Africa


"I believe that “human rights” are those principles found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Promoting human rights means giving all people a voice and an opportunity to achieve their fullest potential. Protecting human rights means keeping people safe from harm and from discrimination. Human rights are universal but acknowledge the differences among people in the world."

-Kathryn Weber

2002 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland


“Human Rights are about the inherent, inalienable, interrelated and universal rights of individuals and groups guaranteed to them under both domestic and international legal frameworks.”

-Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan

1999-2000 Hubert Humphrey Fellow
Head of the Department of Public Law
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria
Kaduna, Nigeria


“The rights one needs in order to enjoy a dignified life or a life worth living. It also means respect for the rights of others to enjoy the same.”

-Sarah Joseph

2002 Visiting Academic
Castan Centre for Human Rights Law
Monash University


“Human rights are the universal rights that everyone deserves and are entitled to. When I hear the term ‘human rights,’ I feel a strong obligation to work to obtain these rights for others because I have been blessed so greatly. It is part of my duty and privilege to work and strive for human rights for all, both here and abroad.”

-Amanda Loge
2004 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
Hogar de Cristo, Arequipa, Peru


“Volunteer. Get some experience. Not only so you can get it on your resume and get those buzzwords out there, not only so you can get some experience to build upon your knowledge and apply what you learned in law school, but when you volunteer you meet people, and you learn how things work out there and it shows your commitment.”

-Roslyn Park
2001 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellow
Anti-Slabery International, London, England


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