Activity Three: Making a Difference
"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must at that moment become the center of the universe… And action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all." Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1986
1. Write on the board or hand out a printed version of Wiesel's statement above.
2. Have students spend ten minutes writing in their journals, or talking to a partner, investigating, explaining, and exploring the meaning of the quote. Use any or all of the following prompts: Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Can you think of any experiences you have had that validate or contradict this idea? What, if any, are the personal implications of this statement? What questions do you have about this statement?
3. After individual journal writing, ask students to share their thoughts and insights in small groups or as a whole class. Ask students to think about this idea as they go through their day. Were there any incidents in class or at home that related to this idea?
Adapted from The Heroism Project
1. Discuss the fact that we all have the power to have a positive impact on the local "world" around us. We are all part of the communities in which we live, and we each have the ability to make a difference by encouraging tolerance, helping someone in need, fighting an injustice or simply speaking our minds.
2. Using the lists below as suggestions, have students work individually or with a partner to find out about a human rights activist individual or organization. Ideally, students will identify people and/or organizations in the community, with whom they might be able to make a connection.
a. If students select individuals, what did they do (or are they doing)? Why? What kind of risks did they take, if any? How did their actions impact the world? A possible source for this unit is Michael Collopy's Architects of Peace: Visions of Hope in Words and Images (New World Library).
People: Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Caldicott, Alfred Nobel, Michail Gorbachev, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jesse Jackson, Chief Seattle, Dr. Maria Montessori, Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, Nelson Mandela, Albert Schweitzer, Andrei Sakharov, Jane Addams, , Linus Pauling, Lech Walesa, Susan B. Anthony, Cesar Chavez, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Emma Goldman, Medger Evers, Dalai Lama, Dorothy Day, Rachel Carson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Thich Nhat Hanh.
b. If they select an organization, have them investigate what contributions these or other organizations they identify make to society. What, if anything, do these contributions have to do with human rights and tolerance?
Organizations: Project Open Hand, Teach for America, Unicef, Unesco, Shanti, Zen Hospice Center, United Nations, American Civil Liberties Union, Global Women's Council, Amnesty International, NAACP, International Court of Justice, N.O.W., Catholic Charities, La Casa de Las Madres, Holocaust Museum, Museum of Tolderance, Mother Teresa's Home for Abandoned Children.
Adapted from The Heroism Project
1. Encourage students to spend a few days reading the local and national news, doing research on the Internet, taking notice of things around the school and community and thinking about a project to undertake as individuals, in small groups or as a class to make a contribution. One might write a letter to his congressman about a national human rights issue. Another might take blankets to a local homeless shelter. A small group might visit a convalescent home and spend a few hours with the residents. A pair might spend a couple of hours cleaning up the playground in a low-income neighborhood.
2. Ask students to submit a plan, including how they chose the project, what they intend to do and how they will proceed.
3. After students have completed their projects, meet as a class to discuss how it went. Ask each person or group to present a short oral (and written) report on the process. Did they feel the project they selected was something that made a difference? Did they enjoy the process, planning and execution? Would they choose to do something like that again?
Students will be assessed on the quality of their participation in class discussions, the quality of their writing, and the quality of their presentations.