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#tolerancemeans that you engage in dialogue with people who have different views

Updated: Apr 8

Kimball Yeates, Undergraduate, Brigham Young University

November 1, 2023

When Abraham Lincoln gave the “Gettysburg Address”, a two-minute speech that has been immortalized in history, the country was divided. The United States was not divided by de-facto political lines but solidified boundary lines as the country split into two. Lincoln’s speech outlined fundamental principles of freedom, unity, and the idea that “all men are created equal.”

Kimball Yeates

These important principles were outlined to advocate for Lincoln’s goal that the United States “shall not perish from the earth.” Tolerance and compromise in the face of conflict are absolutely essential to Lincoln’s message, as his words tried to unify a divided country.  Divisiveness is not a new concept in America. As a history major, I have studied hundreds of years of divisiveness, lack of tolerance, and injustice perpetuated toward many different groups of people across centuries. When looking at history through the lens of the present, a lack of tolerance when it should have been championed is visible, from the Civil Rights movement to European interactions with Native Americans. Studying the past is an important aspect of looking toward the future, and evidence from throughout history is indicative of the importance of tolerating different groups, ideas,  When I voted for the first time, I stood with my parents in a dusty Presbyterian church. It was a primary election and the woman working the poll booth asked what ballot I would like.  “Democrat,” I said. Both of my parents asked for Republican ballots.  “How did that happen?” the woman asked.  “I wish I knew,” my father said.  People who have drastically different views than me are not some separated group I rarely interact with. Oftentimes, they are the people we are closest to. Having differing political views from my parents has taught me the importance and often the necessity of tolerance. Tolerance does not mean separation; it does not mean ignoring and being completely distinct from those who have differing views or opinions. Engaging in respectful, meaningful dialogue with those who have different views is important in reaching common ground and expanding our own worldviews. While it might be easier to ignore controversial and divisive issues such as gun control or abortion, discussing these issues is essential to promoting tolerance for both sides.  The goal of tolerance is not to convince someone with a different opinion to believe you. It is to reach a common understanding and mutual respect for those who are different. Understanding the unique experiences and perspectives that contribute to their ideas is significant and brings people together rather than tears them apart. In a country that might not be divided by boundary lines but is certainly divided by political and ideological lines, tolerance is essential to the well-being of our country. Just as Abraham Lincoln advocated for a nation of unity in a highly divisive period of history, tolerance can help bring together people when divisiveness is threatening to tear them apart.


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