Free copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in American hotels

On December 10, we commemorate Human Rights Day: the anniversary of the day in 1948 when the nation members of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In celebration of this year’s Human Rights Day, the Spanish hotel company Room Mate Hotels is placing copies of the document in all its hotel rooms starting today. Hotels elsewhere, particularly Germany, are known to provide the Declaration in their rooms as well.

Why not push hotel and motel chains in the United States to also provide the Declaration in their rooms, in addition to whatever books and materials they already provide? Similar to the Gideons International model, the new initiative could further distribute free copies of the Declaration to college campuses, hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons, not just hotels.

At a moment when neo-Nazis are ascendant in American politics and the New Deal as well as hard-won progress in human rights are under grave threat, the historical background of the Declaration is especially poignant today. It was, after all, Eleanor Roosevelt who chaired the Drafting Committee as it debated and crafted its message of universal human rights on the heels of World War II.

The Declaration is now the most translated document in the world. Imagine that historic articulation of a shared humanity  — within our own country and across national boundaries — awaiting every traveler within the United States.

For the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, see the United Nations’ website.