By the President of the United States of America
This month marks the anniversaries of two great events in the long struggle for the rights of human beings: the ratification of the American Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791, and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.
The Bill of Rights culminated the Founders' efforts to create for their new country a national life grounded in liberty and respect for individual rights. The Declaration of Independence proclaimed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution formed a "more perfect Union" in which those rights could be fulfilled. And the first ten amendments to the new Constitution placed the keystone on this new edifice of human rights. The immediate application of those rights extended only to one country, and only to some of the people in it. But because those rights were proclaimed as the natural birthright of all human beings, the documents that embodied them were rightly seen to have a profound and universal significance.
It is a lesson of history that no enumeration of rights, however eloquent, can alone ensure their protection in practice. We Americans struggled, sometimes bloodily, to make the rights promised in our founding documents a reality for all our people. That experience of successful struggle for human rights in our own country was both painful and ennobling, and it propelled us into a leading role in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. As a people, we believe what that Declaration says: that the promotion of respect for human rights is the shared responsibility of the world community. We call on the governments of other nations to join us in discharging this responsibility.
Everywhere on earth, men and women have made great personal sacrifices, even to the laying down of their lives, in the long struggle for justice and human dignity. By their sacrifices, they have already hallowed the human rights anniversaries I proclaim today.
Now, THEREFORE, I, JIMMY CARTER, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim December 10, 1977, as Human Rights Day and December 15, 1977, as Bill of Rights Day, and call on all Americans to observe Human Rights Week beginning December 10, 1977. Let us reflect on the significance of the Bill of Rights, which has given purpose to our national life, and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which holds the promise of greater liberty in the lives of all the inhabitants of our planet. Let us recommit ourselves, as individuals and as a Nation, to the realization of these rights, the guarantee of which we hold to be the essential purpose of the civil order.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred seventy-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and second.
[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 3:09 p.m., December 9, 1977]