Giving Thanks for Diversity

“God did not burden the United States with a diversity of backgrounds, ideas and religions, He blessed America with them.”

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (b. 1944)

This post was written at Thanksgiving 2016. Since then, I have continued to update it. I find the message to be timeless and increasingly important to America and the world.

My “Thanksgiving” wish is that all citizens of the United States will see diversity as a blessing. Recent years have been tumultuous for ethnic groups across America and the world. Tolerance seems to have taken a backseat to misunderstanding, irrational fear, emotional outbursts and occasional violence.

Among the many nonprofit organizations for which I have worked, those focusing on the environment have taught me that human beings are no different from other animals in the sense that they have developed physically in unique and interesting ways over tens of thousands of years.

Yet oddly enough, while we are endlessly fascinated by the physical diversity found in birds, mammals, fish and the like, when it comes to our own human species some of us are intolerant of those who look and behave differently from our own group. We sometimes fear those who hold religious beliefs dissimilar from our own, and those who maintain cultural traditions we do not understand.

“Ultimately, America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity, the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.”

Robert Kennedy, American politician (1925-1968)

During SXSW a few years ago, I attended a series of sessions on Tech Inclusion. Hosted by Galvanize and the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings Initiative, panel discussions began early on a Sunday morning in downtown Austin at the then-new offices of Atlassian, and continued all day long. I learned about the challenges LGBTQIA citizens have securing and holding “regular” corporate jobs, about common issues military veterans re-entering the workforce face, how underrepresented minorities struggle in the workplace with the simplest accommodations and general perceptions, as do older generations and women in the workplace.

After listening for several hours of well-considered discussion and dialogue, I felt these Tech Inclusion presentations should be televised and made available to a much broader audience. Not only the tech industry but every industry – and the general populace – would benefit. They were outstanding.

“We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community – and this nation.”

Cesar Chavez, American activist (1927-1993)

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