Eleanor Roosevelt was 64 years old when she guided the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to passage, but she was just getting started. She may have had a life of service behind her, but there was a new challenge right before her eyes. She saw the John Birch Society undermining public perceptions of the UN and fueling a rising tide of isolationism and she knew she had to do something. She picked up a suitcase and spent a decade crisscrossing the country to build public support for the UN as the leader of UNA-USA.
As we celebrate the International Day of Older Persons, there is much we can learn from Eleanor’s example. By 2050 there will be 2 billion people on the planet over the age of 60 making up 20% of the world’s population (up from 12% today). Unfortunately, the dialogue on aging is all too often framed as a challenge to be overcome rather than as an opportunity to be seized.
For us at UNA-USA, we know that our greatest successes come when we connect the insights and experiences of our older members to the passion and commitment of our newest student champions. We know also that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals won’t be achieved unless the talents of older persons are leveraged while their rights are protected.
We have plenty of work to do. We have our own rising tide of isolationism to fight and 17 Goals to advance. But we aren’t alone. We are joined by leaders, cut from Eleanor’s same cloth, with lived experiences and vital skills that propel us forward in our cause.
Thank you for being a part of our movement.
Executive Director, UNA-USA