George Cheney of Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy 

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“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” Thus begins Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 by the United Nations as a global statement of rights to which all humans are entitled. Yet, as lofty as these ideals were some 60 years ago, discrimination continues to rear its head in the United States and other countries.

Salt Lake City will do its part to embrace diversity and honor human rights on Thursday, Dec. 10, at 6:30 p.m. when Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker host a Human Rights Day reception and refugee exhibit at the City & County Building (451 S. State). U of U communications professor George Cheney (pictured above), who also serves as executive director of the Tanner Center for Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy, will join former Mayor Rocky Anderson as event speakers.

What does your job as director of the U’s Tanner Nonviolent Human Rights Advocacy Center entail?
I have had the privilege to administer an array of programs on campus and in the community in the areas of human rights, conflict resolution and peace studies for four years. Of all the activities and experiences, two types stand out: helping students to pursue their goals in these areas and building bridges between the campus and the larger community.

What initially piqued your interest in advocacy?
“Advocacy” really refers to persuasion, and persuasion is the heart of the study of rhetoric, the ancient roots of my discipline of communication. At the same time, we must recognize that engaging in dialogue, where we seek to understand as much as to convince, is critically important in today’s world.

Which human-rights issue should everyone know about?
Everyone should be familiar with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Even if you disagree with the applicability of one or more articles, the document becomes a great starting place for discussion.

How can one person make a difference?
By seeking to understand, respecting and loving others, and resisting the temptation to blame some other group for the world’s problems.

How do we pursue human rights while also recognizing the need to attend to the big picture of life on this planet?
I would say that we desperately need to understand the world as one big system, which is rich in diversity, resilient in certain respects but also quite fragile.

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