By the President of the United States of America
This week, as we commemorate the ratification of our Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791, we not only give thanks for our Nation's enduring legacy of liberty under law but also celebrate its role in promoting human rights around the world.
Our Bill of Rights guarantees, among other basic liberties, freedom of religion, speech, and the press. It affirms the right of the people to keep and bear arms; ensures that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; and guarantees the right of citizens to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizure of their persons, houses, papers, and effects. The Bill of Rights also establishes fundamental rules of fairness in our Nation's judicial system, including the right to trial by jury, assistance of counsel, and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. Finally, the Bill of Rights reserves to the States respectively, or to the people, those powers that are not delegated to the Federal Government by the Constitution.
Seventeen additional amendments have been added to our Constitution over the past 200 years, but the Bill of Rights has remained a shining symbol of our liberty -- a standard against which we measure the legitimacy of American laws and institutions.
Over time, the Bill of Rights has proved to be a cornerstone as well: today we recognize that great document as the foundation of more recent charters of liberty, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. Recognizing that respect for "the inherent dignity and . . . the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world," signers of the Declaration affirmed that "everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of person." Signers likewise stated that "all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law." They agreed to respect freedom of thought, conscience, and religion for all, without regard to race, nationality, gender, or belief, and declared that "everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives." These principles were affirmed again in 1975, when the United States, Canada, and 33 European nations joined together in signing the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
While we have made great progress toward the goals set forth at Helsinki and reaffirmed at subsequent CSCE meetings in Copenhagen, Geneva, and Moscow, we know that there is still much work to do in promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts, the establishment of stable, democratic institutions of government, and universal compliance with international human rights agreements. When he proposed a Bill of Rights to our Constitution in 1789, James Madison sagely noted that such a document would strengthen democracy by preventing a tyranny of the majority, in which the will of a larger number of citizens might be levelled against the rights of the few. The resurgence of ethnic violence and bitter nationalist rivalries has underscored the urgency of protecting the rights of minorities. As it has done consistently in the past, the United States calls on all signatories to the Helsinki Final Act and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to fulfill their solemn commitment to protect the rights of individuals, without regard to race, nationality, or creed.
Recognizing that egregious human rights violations continue not only in regions encompassed within the CSCE but also in other regions of the world, the United States also denounces any attempts to dilute or distort human rights agreements through the claim of particular socioeconomic circumstances or religious and cultural traditions. Having fought so long for recognition of an international human rights standard, one rooted in fundamental standards of morality and justice, we will not condone that consensus being undermined by those who claim that their particular economic, social, or political contexts relieve them of their obligation to protect the rights of individuals. The upcoming World Conference on Human Rights, which is to be held in June 1993, will provide the United States with another opportunity to reaffirm the universality of human rights and the common duty of all governments to uphold them.
Now, Therefore, I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 10, 1992, as Human Rights Day and December 15, 1992, as Bill of Rights Day, and call on all Americans to observe the week beginning December 10, 1992, as Human Rights Week. I urge all Americans to observe this week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventeenth.