2006 Human Rights Day Conference

2006 Conference, Day in Review

December 1, 2006

"In Small Places Close to Home"

From hate crimes to housing to the tragedy of human sexual trafficking, Minnesota's 23rd Annual Human Rights Day Conference, held Friday, Dec. 1 at Saint Paul RiverCentre, explored some of today's most important human rights issues through a wide range of workshops and presentations. The theme of this year's conference was, "In Small Places Close to Home."


The conference featured a keynote address by civil rights leader Dr. Mary Frances Berry. Berry was appointed by President Carter as U.S. Commissioner of Civil Rights, fired from the post by President Reagan after she criticized his civil rights polices, and reinstated after she sued him in federal district court.

Berry told the audience that "we've made enormous progress" in achieving justice and opportunity for Americans of every kind, but cited "enormous challenges" still ahead. "The struggle is never a straight line, we move forward, and then backwards, but never all the way back," she said. To move forward requires sacrifice and leadership, she added. "The civil rights movement didn't happen just became somebody got up one day and said, 'Hey, let's have equal rights in America,'" she said. "A lot of people struggled and a lot of people died and went to jail."


Governor Arne Carlson delivered the morning plenary address. Citing a range of challenges from the federal deficit to global warming, Carlson spoke of the need for a national vision that focuses on the well-being of America's children and ensures that all have an opportunity to succeed. "Discrimination as part of our national vision has a price that's far, far too high for any one of us to pay," Carlson declared. "It has no place in a society that truly loves its children."

Throughout the day, conference workshops highlighted the latest trends, emerging issues, best practices and key decisions shaping the future of human rights. In addition to the workshops, keynote and plenary speeches, the conference featured:

  • Entertainment by Nicolas Carter, a master of the Paraguayan harp;
  • Highlights from a new video, "Crime, Race and Justice," produced by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights examining disparities in Minnesota's criminal justice system; and
  • The presentation of awards to winners of the 2006 Human Rights day poster contest. The contest was open to Minnesota students K through 12, who were challenged to depict in art form what they believed Eleanor Roosevelt meant when she talked about the importance of human rights In small places close to home. "The idea that this is our home -- and that we all have a stake in what happens here -- is one that has resonated for me, and has helped shape some of the work we do at the Department of Human Rights," declared Commissioner Velma Korbel, who presented the awards to the winning contestants.

The conference received financial assistance from sponsors Best Buy; the law firm of Dorsey & Whitney, LLP; Thomson West; and LVI Media Productions.