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World Day of Social Justice

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(FROM LEHIGH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND STAFF)

WORLD DAY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
February 24 , 2009

Ted Morrin

Attending the first World Day of Social Justice at the UN was undeniably a memorable experience.   This was my first trip to a briefing at the United Nations with the LU/UN partnership NGO, and indeed my first trip to the United Nations at all.  Because of conflicts in my schedule, I usually do not get the chance to attend the weekly trips to the UN, but this special Friday briefing allowed me to go.  For the most part, however, it wasn’t the day of the week that influenced me to make the trip, rather the topic of discussion: social justice.  It is a subject I often study and apply at Lehigh, and I was excited for the opportunity to hear this perspective being discussed on a larger stage. 

En route to New York, Bill’s briefing helped me to realize the uniqueness and privilege Lehigh students have to attend these events at the UN.  We would soon be in the presence of, on this day in particular, one of the greatest voices for social justice, former Ireland President Mary Robinson.  As we shuffled into the Ecosoc Chamber, I was certainly eager to take our seats in the front row; only a few desks in the center of the room separated us from the accomplished and esteemed panel.

Later, during the Q&A, I had the opportunity to ask a question of the panel, the second one from our Lehigh group.  I was happy, of course, to be addressed by President Robinson, as well as the other members of the panel.  However, what struck me the most was how normal I felt.  I credit my experiences at Lehigh, and past personal work with social justice here on campus, as the reason for my confidence in addressing the panel.  Their response was validating of both my question and my position in asking it, and highlighted the UN’s message that social justice must be achieved with both a top-down and bottom-up approach.

I felt a mixture of frustration and satisfaction after the briefing; frustration at the small representation of member countries present at the briefing, yet satisfaction that such an important issue is being taken up by the UN.  I can only hope that the ILO and UN move forward on this issue, toward concrete and significant change.

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