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In Your Hands (Where do human rights begin?)
    for narrator, SSAA chorus, s.a.a. solos, vibraphone, and piano


Text: Eleanor Roosevelt (with additional lyrics by Eric Bartlett)
Duration: 7 min.
Commissioned by: MUSE: Cincinnati's Women's Choir; Dr. Catherine Roma, Artistic Dir.
Premiere: June 8, 2013; MUSE: Cincinnati's Women's Choir (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Published by: Abbie Betinis Music Co., AB-075-01


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Imagine it's 1958. You're sitting in a large room at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, where Eleanor Roosevelt is about to address the audience. In these 13 years since President Roosevelt's death, Eleanor has devoted herself to seeking global peace by becoming an unrelenting advocate for the oppressed and marginalized. Through her speeches, her travels, her daily newspaper columns, and -- what she considers her greatest achievement -- her role in developing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), she has fought tirelessly for equality and fundamental freedoms for all people.

Today, on the eve of the Universal Declaration's Tenth Anniversary, the "First Lady of the World" will present In Your Hands, a guide to community action. She will declare that "the destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities," and she will urge each of us to improve human rights conditions "in small places, close to home" as the first step toward global progress.

It has been an honor to tailor-make this new piece for MUSE, whose singers, conductors and collaborators live out Eleanor's message with guts and conviction. The texts are excerpts from Mrs. Roosevelt's speeches on human rights (recited by the Narrator), some newly-penned verses inspired by those speeches (sung by the Chorus), and a paraphrase of Mrs. Roosevelt's moving 1957 Commencement Address to college graduates (sung by the Soloist). I hope you enjoy it.

- Abbie Betinis

In Your Hands
From speeches and writings of Eleanor Roosevelt (with additional lyrics by Eric Bartlett)       

NARRATOR: I am here on behalf of thirty-two national organizations representing millions of citizens -- of all faiths; of every complexion; in all parts of the United States. The devotion of so many Americans to human rights is symbolized by this spontaneous and resounding answer to the United Nations' call for world-wide observances of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We believe that the destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Without concerted citizen action to uphold [these rights] close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. (1)

Where do human rights begin?

Not in a corporate boardroom,
        Not from a lawmaker's pen,
Nor from a thundering gavel
        Judging our women and men. (2)

            Where do human rights begin?
            ...in your hands, in your hands
            In the hands of ev'ry citizen.
            ...in your hands, in your hands
                  Unless these rights have meaning there,
                  They have little meaning anywhere.
            Where do human rights begin?
            In your hands. (3)

Hands clasp hands in greeting
        In factory, school and field.
In small places close to Home,
        Our pact of Love is sealed. (2)

NARRATOR: One of the fundamental human rights is freedom for the individual. Freedom can never be absolute because it must be consistent with the freedom of others. (4) Everyone's liberty is conditioned by the rights of other people. (5) But the more observance there is of human rights - the more freedom the individual will have. (4)

Freedom can never be absolute,
        It must align with the freedom of others. (6)
When Liberty rings from a broken Bell
        It must be forged anew, to ring out true
                For all our sisters and brothers... (7)

Reach across the barriers,
        Through the spaces that divide
To grasp the hands of strangers
        And become a rising tide. (2)

SOLOIST: May you go forth with courage, persistence and joy,
              Faith in the future no fear can destroy,
              With a purpose that's pure and good, with a strength beyond your own,
              May you always be striving for something you can't do alone. (8)

See the icy ramparts melt
        When our hands embrace.
Throw open wide the steely doors
        Rend the thawing gates! (2)


Note: These lyrics are under copyright and may not be reprinted without permission.

(1) Eleanor Roosevelt (ER), at her presentation of "IN YOUR HANDS: A Guide for Community Action for the Tenth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." 27 March, 1958. United Nations, New York. Edited and abridged by Abbie Betinis (AB).
(2) Original text by Eric Bartlett (EB).
(3) Compiled by EB from Eleanor Roosevelt's UN speech above.
(4) From ER's speech 10 Dec 1949, Carnegie Hall, NY on the first anniversary of the adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
(5) From ER's "Remarks to the Americans for Democratic Action on Individual Liberty", 2 April 1950, Washington, DC.
(6) Special thanks to Kela Wanyama (AB's roommate) for thinking of the word "align" in paraphrasing ER's speech above.
(7) Original text by EB & AB. Inspired also by ER's My Day column 5 Feb 1952, concerning a new church bell.
(8) Paraphrased by AB from ER's Commencement Address at Sarah Lawrence College, 7 June 1957, Bronxville, NY

Click the links below to play each mp3. Tracks will open in a new window. (To download: right click and "Save target as.")

FULL SCORE RECORDING (all parts balanced, stereo, MIDI)
In Your Hands -- full score: Click here to play the mp3

PARTS RECORDINGS (each part isolated, stereo, MIDI)
The right speaker has the part isolated, and the left has all parts softly, for context. Listen on earphones for best results. (For a challenge, try pulling your right earbud out to test yourself.)

In Your Hands -- Soprano 1: Click here to play the mp3
In Your Hands -- Soprano 2: Click here to play the mp3
In Your Hands -- Alto 1: Click here to play the mp3
In Your Hands -- Alto 2: Click here to play the mp3

Sound files copyright © 2013 Abbie Betinis.