It Starts With You

We’re beginning a dialogue. All around the country, students, thought leaders, and their communities are discussing constructive approaches to living together in a society of difference, where every voice is heard.  

Especially when societal values like non-discrimination or child welfare interact with faith, many see friction and no solutions. Today’s tense public discourse drives young people away from even exploring how best to live together.

We have a better way: talking to each other.

Engaging Hard Issues at the Intersection of Faith, Sexuality, and Families

For example, LGBT people face discrimination in housing, jobs, and restaurants in parts of the country.  They want to be treated like everyone else.

Religious schools, employers, and small businesses seek to affirm their deeply held convictions around religious sacraments—like marriage and circumcision.  Sometimes they ask to step aside from services that would violate their beliefs.  Sometimes houses of worship are regulated like government buildings, grocery stores, and other public places.

Instantly, important freedoms are in tension.

Equally hard, children are dying in pockets of the US from “faith healing.” Does respecting faith mean that nothing can be done to prevent these tragic deaths? Will jailing parents save lives? Can we better protect children by engaging religious communities more deeply? 

Is there a solution to hard issues that best serves all our commitments?  This is where the Dialogues come in.  

More Than An Idea

The Tolerance Means Dialogues challenge the misconception that it’s impossible for people of good will to find common ground on the hardest issues. The Dialogues harness and amplify the insights of Millennials and Gen Z—tomorrow’s leaders—who have come of age in an era of increasing diversity and a spirit of openness and inclusivity. Just look at the essays written by our scholarship winners. Tolerance, they urge, means moving beyond ambivalence and forging a path toward genuine respect.


Emma Baehrens

undergraduate winner
Cleveland institute of art

I thought that I was tolerant because I was accepting of liberal beliefs, but I still frowned upon conservative values without trying to understand why people held these beliefs. I had never tried to understand both sides of the war between religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. Now, the new conversation is how the two parties can coexist.

Kyle Jorstad

graduate winner
case western reserve university law school

Unfortunately, America’s current political climate strongly endorses a false dichotomy where we are encouraged to believe there are only two options to choose from, and too many of my generation have fallen into the camp ignorant of the potential for a middle ground. Only by actively advocating for tolerance by example can this hostility be properly addressed. So instead of telling your ideological opponent why they’re wrong, ask them why they’re right – you might be surprised.
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Shannon McNamara

undergraduate winner
University of Alabama

Parents should cry when a son or daughter comes out to them. Tears of joy should roll down their faces, because their child somehow managed to find the courage to become a potential target in the face of an outdated but ever present adversity.

Elizabeth Kazmierczak

Undergrad Winner
University of Illinois

In every ecosystem in the world, diversity is valued and necessary for the survival of all organisms in the environment, a more diverse population has a stronger fitness. There’s one exception to that rule and that’s with human society. We think diversity makes us weaker.
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Crystal Smitherman

graduate winner
university of Alabama

I just thought tolerance meant even though I do not agree with you, I just let you do what you want and not say anything to you . . . That is not tolerance but the destruction of the societal balance and what makes America so promising to so many groups of people over the past centuries.

Arielle Brown

Graduate Winner
University of Illinois

I strive to listen before I speak and to find connections more than I find differences. Tolerance in dialogues highlights the unspoken similarities between individuals. Have we as humans experienced similar forms of trauma? Oppression? Joy?

All Views

In our tense public discourse, valuable insights can be lost. Not only is that a shame, it is self-defeating—these insights may hold the key to solving these difficult problems.  So, to guide this important conversation, we've brought together voices that capture all angles and points of view.

Each Dialogue approaches its subject with a sense of compassion and respect, with a spirit of civility. The reality is that none of us knows all there is to know.  Only by listening with an open mind can we move forward together.  


Putting It Into Practice

We're hitting the road and taking these dialogues to all corners of the country. Take a look at where we've been and where we're planning to go.

Brigham Young University

Wayne State University

University of Pittsburgh

Idaho State Capitol

University of North Carolina

University of St. Thomas

Loras College

University of Illinois

University of Alabama

Case Western Reserve University