Lessons from the Minnesota State Fair

"What are you an advocate for?"
“What are you an advocate for?”

On a sticky August morning at the great Minnesota get together, the Justice Office ventured to a small space nestled between the salsa booth and the hanging hammock station to engage fair-goers in conversations around human rights. Surrounded by vendors we were initially uncertain of people’s interest in entering a discussion. Volunteering with The Advocates for Human Rights has always been a very positive experience in the past (so we heard—this was the first time for the two of us!).

The Advocates for Human Rights, “investigate and expose human rights violations, represent immigrants and refugees seeking asylum, train and assist groups that protect human rights, engage the public, policy-makers, and children; and push for legal reform and advocates for sound policy”.

In the Justice Office, we believe that meeting the dear neighbor without distinction means to receive them respectfully while standing rooted in the human rights of all people. Our mission and connection to the work of The Advocates is strengthened by our call to meet the needs of the time.

For us, the greatest nuggets of wisdom came from the young children. When posed with a random question on the conversation wheel, the participants shared their beliefs. For adults, it took the form of multiple choice questions, and for children it was an open-ended question.

With the particularly dehumanizing rhetoric on immigration, it was refreshing to hear a young girl speak clearly to the human experience of migration, unsullied by politics.

When asked how she felt when she had to move to a different home, she said she was sad, but so happy when her classmates asked her to play. As she thought more about how people arrive to this country upon our discussion, she said she wanted to especially include children who arrive without protection. Without hesitation she said her mommy and daddy always keep her safe.

Sometimes, we as adults are inclined to respond to a historically complex issue with an equally complex solution. Sometimes we need to remember the wisdom of children is so much less about scholarship and more of an unlearning. At the heart of human rights are people and our responsibility to justice.

Civil society through the wisdom of a child tasted even better on a stick.

Megan Bender, Justice Associate
and Elea Ingman, Program Assistant

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