Most Americans would agree that there is no place for racism and it should not be tolerated in our country. (Yet, none should be surprised to know it exists.) There has been a growing discussion around the issue of the American flag, the National Anthem, and what it means to respect or disrespect the flag. Personally, I believe in what the American flag represents and believe it is important to honor that meaning by standing during the National Anthem. This is a belief that I teach my children, and believe reflects the freedoms we hold dearly, the same freedom that allows us a choice to stand or not stand. Though I may not agree or personally choose to sit or kneel during the anthem, I respect those that exercise their right to do so, it is what freedom is about- and freedom is not limited to those that believe in or agree in lock step. I have been asked about what I am reflecting, and though I am by no means perfect, I am comfortable saying the following:
My reflection stands in the body of work that I stand for, basic principles that I have worked extremely hard to share with others in the U.S. and around the globe. I am a Cultural Diplomacy champion, within this framework people exchange perspectives, ideas, arts, and culture. You learn from a different perspective, you value it and you grow through the interactions with those in which you may have never thought you could find commonality.
Cultural Diplomacy has taught me tolerance, understanding and diversity- I live by it! As a proud American, I pledge to stand by my Country and die for the freedoms it represents- not only for those I agree with. I do this because I believe in what WE stand for, which is far bigger than mere man- just as it was intended. Discourse is not only appropriate, but required. However, today many find solace in rejecting and resisting the opinions and ideologies of others, indiscriminately casting aside any perspective that falls outside their narrow lens of correctness. I believe this type of judgment only creates a toxic culture of intolerance.
We all understand that culture is passed on from generation to generation. It is important that we not allow this toxic culture of intolerance to be the example we pass on to future generations, especially at such a pivotal moment in our American history. In the realm of intolerance there are no winners, only those passing judgment on one another. It is important that we teach our youth the value of right and wrong; but equally important, how to disagree with different perspectives with respect and tolerance. We must learn, teach and exemplify the importance of personal responsibility and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change in which you wish to see in the world”.
This is my reflection, these are my basic principles.