By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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The day's activities began with a tour of the United Nations, where the members of the Port Angeles High School Roughrider Orchestra seemed a little tired.
The previous day, the 56 violinists, 23 violists, five bassists and 26 cellists had given a concert at Carnegie Hall, under the baton of their music teacher, Ron Jones.
The Roughrider Orchestra performed works by Beethoven, Dvorak, Wiren and Zimmer to a standing ovation Sunday afternoon.
Then they went on a dinner cruise around New York Harbor and to an ice cream-and-karaoke party before calling it a night.
“Anyone know anything about the U.N.?” Italian tour guide Matias Lindemann asked a group of 15 students Monday morning.
When no one piped up a response, Lindemann labeled it an “awkward moment.”
Then he smiled and said, “C'mon, kids . . . I'm going to make you participate, even if you don't want to.”
Onward they went, into an empty U.N. General Assembly room where, back in 1961, then-Cuban President Fidel Castro flouted the 20-minute speech limit by placing his handkerchief over the red warning light and expounding for four hours.
The rest of the assembly put up with it, Lindemann said, as the United Nations was designed as a forum, a place where member states talk and listen to one another.
It is not, he said, a senate that imposes international law.
Next the group visited a grim display about land mines.
There, Lindemann noted that the majority of people maimed by the mines are children and teenagers because, he said, they are the most curious.
The students then crowded around the gun-guitar, a rifle converted into a stringed instrument.
This object, built by Cesar Lopez of Colombia, turns an instrument of war into one of peace, Lindemann said.
He didn't know he was speaking to a group of musicians, but told them: “You can buy one of these at the gift shop.
“It's April Fools' Day,” Lindemann added.
Lindemann got serious at the next stop: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights wall printed with Eleanor Roosevelt's words.
“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. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity,” Roosevelt wrote.
“Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.“
Human rights begin in our individual lives, Lindemann said; for example, you have the right to not be bullied in school. You have the responsibility to uphold the same right for those around you.
The tour wrapped up with Lindemann's discussion on the U.N. World Food Program, which seeks to rescue malnourished children around the world with rice, beans and a sweet, super-caloric form of peanut butter.
He invited the students to visit www.FreeRice.com, where they can help the U.N. effort.
The Roughrider Orchestra, along with 25 chaperones and other parents, returns home tonight.
Subgroups of the 150 Port Angeles residents visited art and natural history museums, the 9/11 memorial, saw the Ringling Bros. Circus at Barclays Center and various Broadway musicals — and “walked for miles,” said chaperone Vicki Helwick.
“I felt like a kid myself,” she added.
When asked for the highlight of her trip, however, 14-year-old violinist Kylie Williams replied softly:
“Playing at Carnegie Hall.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.