This call is animated by the values of dignity and inclusion.

We propose a humanitarian justification for music-making, one that is rooted in the inherent dignity of each and every person.

[T]he inherent dignity... of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”¹ 
– Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Dignity is the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.² It is grounded in the concepts of worth, respect, affirmation of value, and self-esteem, although its meaning extends to the very definition of the human being. All humans possess inherent dignity based solely on the fact that they are human beings.

To be a human being is not a status conferred upon me by anyone. Nor is this a status that I, nor anybody else, can confer upon others ... These are facts of recognition, of acknowledgment, constituting the very beings we are, and that we take for granted in what we do. We are not “instructed” in these truths, they become part of us in the process of being alive and aware as human beings. Let me acknowledge these facts as bedrock truth.³
– Teresa Iglesia, philosopher and ethicist

Innate human dignity implies innate human rights. The right to enjoy and participate in society and culture is a natural extension of this relationship.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 22: Everyone, as a member of society ... is entitled to realization ... of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 27: Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

Article 26: Everyone has the right to education. ... Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship....

Each person deserves opportunities to participate in social, cultural, and educational spaces and to develop as an individual. An active music life exists at the intersection of social, educational, and cultural rights, rooted in the inherent dignity of each person.

But when human dignity and its attending rights are disregarded or violated, communities and individuals experience exclusion.

Exclusion doesn’t “just happen”: instead, it occurs when individuals and systems of power forget, disregard, or blatantly violate a person’s inherent dignity. Whether inadvertent, covert, or overt, exclusion is deeply damaging at the individual, local, and national levels and can infiltrate all aspects of daily life. For America’s underserved students, exclusion is manifested in

countless ways, including the denial of students’ right to an active music life. Exclusion can only be combatted by assertively pursuing inclusion—the affirmation of human dignity manifested by full access and participation in the educational, social, and cultural aspects of a community. In the next section, we will examine how an active music life can foster inclusion for city students.

Based on the inherent dignity of every person and the desire for a just and equitable society, we assert on behalf of all students:

  • Access to an active music life is a cultural right.
  • Participation in the cultural life of the community is a social right.
  • Education in music is an educational right.

To be denied these rights is to experience exclusion from educational, cultural, and social spheres. It is our moral imperative to seek these fundamental rights for each and every student.

¹ United Nations General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 217 A (III), (Paris, 1948).

² Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. “dignity.”

³ Teresa Iglesias, “Bedrock Truths and the Dignity of the Individual,” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 4, no. 1 (January 2001): 114-134.