Jill and I join communities across the United States and around the world in marking Human Rights Day — an opportunity to affirm our fundamental belief in the rights, freedoms, and dignity of all people.
Seventy-one years ago, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then, as now, the notion that every individual is created equal and enjoys fundamental human rights was a contested idea. Yet thanks to the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, who chaired the drafting committee, the United States helped rally the world behind a common understanding of our shared humanity, one rooted in our own founding documents.
Today, that basic truth — that fundamental idea at the foundation of free societies everywhere — is under vicious assault. It is under threat by a resurgence of illiberalism, nationalism, and authoritarianism. It is in peril from Donald Trump and demagogues around the world who are leaning into these forces for their own personal and political gain.
Globally, we are witnessing an assault on vulnerable communities, including through Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. A million or more Uighurs languish in detention camps in China and many Rohingya live in abject conditions in Bangladesh, while peaceful demonstrators in Iraq and Iran come under fire from their own government’s armed forces. Protesters from Algeria to Venezuela are showing their frustration with socio-economic and political systems that fail to protect universal human rights and allow them to live with dignity.
The Trump administration is too often silent in the face of this tide of tyranny, while President Trump himself warmly embraces some of the world’s most odious dictators.
As we confront these challenges, we must recognize that American leadership on human rights must begin at home — in the way that we treat our neighbors and those most vulnerable among us. While the Trump administration has trampled our core values here and abroad, our long history of championing liberty and justice will not be denied.
As president, I will take decisive steps to demonstrate that America is prepared to lead again — not just with the example of our power, but the power of our example. We will recommit ourselves to building a world based on fairness and opportunity for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, nationality or sexual orientation. We will rebuild American diplomatic capacity to support and defend human rights around the globe, including through international institutions. We will rejoin the UN Human Rights Council and work to ensure that body truly lives up to its values. We will stand up for the rights of women and girls, LGBTQ communities, persecuted ethnic and religious minorities, those living with disabilities, and other marginalized groups, and ensure that the assistance we provide reflects our values.
We will not retreat. The defense of human rights and freedom at home and abroad is a responsibility we all share and a common cause that must animate our future together.
A member of the Democratic Party, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. served as the 47th vice president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Biden also represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009. He is a candidate for president in the 2020 election.