Tolerance: Our country’s key to success

Published 9:27 am Thursday, July 2, 2015

“But we can perhaps remember — even if only for a time — that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek — as we do — nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”

It’s been nearly half a century since Bobby Kennedy responded to Martin Luther King’s assassination with this speech, titled “On Mindless Menace of Violence,” and our country has come a long way in this time. But, judging by recent events, it is a message worth revisiting every now and then.

As we celebrate the ideals this great country was founded on this weekend, I think it is important that we reflect on the principle that Kennedy references, the same concept that has allowed us to progress into the society that we are today: tolerance.

When we celebrate this weekend, we’ll be honoring the freedoms we were given 236 years ago when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. When our predecessors founded the “melting pot” America has been since its inception, there is no doubt that they expected controversy.

When we put people with different backgrounds and makeups — be it race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc. — in the same vicinity as one another, there is bound to be conflict at some point or another. When we wholeheartedly believe in something, it is our impulse to defend those beliefs and encourage others to see things the same way we do.

And conflict is fine — to an extent. We learn and grow by hearing others’ disagreements. However, the true mark of maturity in this country is when a person can agree to disagree, and still respect the people who believe differently than us.

Passages of the 13th amendment (which abolished slavery), the 15th amendment (which prohibits denial of the right to vote based on race), the 19th amendment (which gave women the right to vote) and the Supreme Court’s recent decision to permit same-sex couples to marry prove that the leaders of this country who are responsible for upholding our constitution continue to believe in the fundamental right we have as Americans to all be considered equal.

It is important that we remember that none of these decisions were made easily or without a fight. At one point, many people laughed at the thought of women weighing in on political issues. As hard as it is to believe now, there was a time when thousands of people wholeheartedly believed in the right to own slaves.

But because the leaders of our country have stood up for the rights our forefathers laid out for us, we have been forced to tolerate — if not accept — the beliefs of those we disagree with, understanding that, like Bobby said, that at their core, we are all seeking to achieve the same goal — a chance to live their lives with purpose and happiness.


Ambrosia Neldon is the managing editor at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7713, or by email at