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Virtual History Happy Hour: Does “Human Dignity” Matter?

Thursday, May 20, 2021 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm


“I believe all Americans are born with certain inalienable rights. As a child of God, I believe my rights are not derived from the constitution. My rights are not derived from any government. My rights are not denied by any majority. My rights are because I exist. They were given to me and each of my fellow citizens by our creator, and they represent the essence of human dignity…”

– President Joe R. Biden

We hear political leaders frequently talking about human rights and human dignity, and how they are universal – but a look around shows us that many people clearly are not accorded equal respect for their dignity. This is particularly true for marginalized people.

Given the “facts on the ground”, what should we think about human dignity? Does it have any relevance as we face a worsening climate crisis, an insurrection at the Capitol, entire countries where no one has access to coronavirus vaccine, and accelerating national and international inequalities?

This talk will consider the ways in which we think about (and possibly advocate for) human dignity now, and how we thought about dignity in the past. The talk will also consider how these views – new and old – shape our thinking on how we might best work together to make this world a better place for us all, where everyone’s dignity matters much more.

About the Speaker
Dr. Chloe Schwenke – until recently a resident of Olney – is an international public policy expert, development ethicist and practitioner, human rights scholar and activist, researcher, and educator. She is the founder and president of a new non-profit organization, the Center for Values in International Development. Chloe served as a political appointee at USAID under the Obama Administration, as Senior Advisor on democracy, human rights, and governance in sub-Saharan Africa, and on LGBTQ+ issues globally. She received her Ph.D. in public policy at the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she was Alumna of the Year for 2013.

As an openly transgender woman, Chloe is a direct witness to how the dignity of marginalized persons is often denied or violated. She will speak both as someone who works on the topic of human dignity for a career, but also as someone who advocates for her own dignity and the dignity of all marginalized persons.

Lisa McKillop, former executive director of Friends of the Olney Theatre Center, will serve as the program moderator.

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