I am pleased to send greetings to all participants at the launch of the book The Boy Who Was Bullied. By portraying the life of John Peters Humphrey, the child who would grow up to become instrumental in ushering in the modern international human rights movement, this book is a celebration of the power of the spirit to triumph over adversity.
Although John Peters Humphrey lost his arm at age 6 and was orphaned at 11, he used his experiences to develop resilience, respect and compassion. He did not let his bullies define his fate; rather he transformed his experiences into a personal resolve to promote human dignity and human rights.
Ultimately, he contributed to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am particularly inspired by the book’s description of his commitment to enshrining freedoms that would protect all people “whether they are male or female, old or young, rich or poor, light-skinned or dark-skinned, one-handed or two.”
This book launch is a powerful reminder of these fundamental values. It is also a cautionary tale on the importance of protecting vulnerable children. John Peters Humphrey demonstrated that every youngster has enormous potential to contribute to our common future.
As we steadfastly uphold the timeless principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must face the harsh reality of today’s challenges. I am deeply concerned about bullying and cyber-bullying, which often afflict children from poor backgrounds or ethnically marginalized groups, children with particular personal characteristics, appearance or disability; or children perceived as having a different sexual orientation.
Bullying can lead to serious physical violence and even death. It is a tragedy and a serious public health threat. We must all work to prevent bullying by helping children to build communications skills, teaching them non-violent approaches to conflict resolution, and carrying out anti-bullying policies. Above all, we must promote respect for all people among children and adults by fostering a culture that values diversity and respect.
As John Peters Humphrey said, “There will only be peace on earth when the rights of all are respected.” As we honour his vision today, let us resolve to realize the promise of the Universal Declaration that he helped to create.