Bringing People Hope: Harvey Milk and the Gay Rights Movement in America

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In 1977, San Francisco politics was taken by storm when gay rights activist Harvey Milk was elected to the Board of Supervisors. As the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States, Milk’s election was a triumph over anti-gay stereotypes. Milk’s ability to mobilize gays and straights alike resulted in the defeat of a statewide proposition to severely limit gays’ employment rights. Though Milk was assassinated 11 months after he was elected to office, his legacy of fighting for gay rights has inspired a new generation of civic activists across the United States, fighting for sexual equality and the expansion of civil liberties for gays and lesbians.

 

Vision and Motivation

In the mid-twentieth century, homosexuals were legally and socially discriminated against in the United States. However, in 1969 during a police raid on a gay bar in New York City, instead of running from the authorities, gays chose to protest their right to visit gay bars.[1] The riots that followed the raid, which became known as the Stonewall Riots, led to the public exposure of police brutality, sparking the first gay rights organization in the U.S., the Gay Liberation Front, which took on a decidedly anti-war, pro-civil rights, anti-establishment identity.[2] It was during this time that America’s gays moved to the west coast en masse, and in particular, to San Francisco.

Harvey Milk was an early migrant to San Francisco’s tolerant Castro District, where he moved to live openly with his partner.[3] However, even in this “tolerant” area, the gay community faced discrimination from local businesses, as both consumers and employees. Milk became involved in local politics and ran for public office to encourage equality and enhance the lives of working-class San Franciscans and minorities.

Goals and Objectives

From the history of other minority groups in America, Milk knew that the only way to truly achieve equality would be for a gay person to be elected to public office. According to Milk, “There is a major difference – and it remains a vital difference – between a friend and a gay person, a friend in office and a gay person in office…It’s not enough anymore just to have friends represent us. No matter how good that friend may be.”[4]

After losing his first three campaigns, Milk was elected Supervisor of the city of San Francisco in 1977, and as the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States, Harvey Milk had already reached a milestone in the fight for gay rights. However, for Milk, winning the election, while monumental, was just the first step in his plan to promote gay rights and equality. Milk sought not only to change the stereotypes that existed about gays, but to also promote a legal framework that supports gays, including the passage of a gay rights bill, and speaking out against a barrage of legislation which would restrict gays’ civil and political liberties.[5]

Leadership

Before pioneering the fight for gay rights, Milk led a dual life like most gay men: hiding his sexual identity during the day, then going home to his domestic partner. Once Milk was swept up in the counter-culture of the 1960s and the gay rights liberation movement in 1972, he was surprised that despite the large gay population in San Francisco, immense inequalities still existed.[6] As a small business owner, he aspired to boycott businesses which were discriminatory toward gays. Milk was able to unite the gay community in San Francisco through his charisma and civic mobilization skills. One supporter noted that “Harvey could galvanize people. He was like a lightning rod — he had the electricity in him.”[7]

Milk used his incredible oratory skills to call out his opponents, all the while arguing for equal rights. Perhaps the best example of this came during a speech Milk made at the June 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade, where he declared, “On the Statue of Liberty it says: ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free…’ In the Declaration of Independence, it is written: ‘All men are created equal and they are endowed with certain inalienable rights…’ And in our National Anthem, it says: ‘Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave over the land of the free.’ For Mr. Briggs and Mrs. Bryant and all the bigots out there: that’s what America is. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration of Independence. No matter how hard you try, you cannot chip those words off the base of the Statue of Liberty and no matter how hard you try, you cannot sing the Star-Spangled Banner without those words. That’s what America is. Love it or leave it.”[8]

Milk was particularly inspired by gay youth who reached out to him after his election. Milk’s campaign for public office gave hope to disenchanted and alienated gay youth, which was a significant motivator to continue fighting for equality. To highlight his underlying drive for equal opportunity, Milk would often reference two gay teenagers who contacted him from Richmond, Minnesota and Altoona, Pennsylvania: “The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great…you have to give people hope.”[9]

Civic Environment

Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, the FBI and local police departments kept files on known gay activists, while the U.S. Postal Service kept track of addresses that received materials pertaining to homosexuality. State and local governments passed laws that shut down bars catering to homosexuals and performed “sweeps” to rid neighborhoods and local hangouts of gay men and women.

Following the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the United States was swept up in a public debate about gay rights. Even though Jimmy Carter had become president in 1976 on a platform that supported human rights, and many states had in place laws that protected gays and lesbians from discrimination, a conservative opposition began to reinforce anti-gay stereotypes. By 1977, an initiative led by celebrity Anita Bryant to repeal a law in Dade County, Florida, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, passed with an overwhelming majority. The gay rights movement faced similar blows in cities in Minnesota, Kansas and Oregon.[10]

Message and Audience

The only way to end the discrimination against gays in America, for Harvey Milk, was to break the mold and enter local politics. Thus, the gay rights movement launched a grassroots effort to elect Milk to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors; while his first attempts were unsuccessful, Milk gradually began growing a base of support. Reporter John Cloud explained, “Milk had a powerful idea: he would reach downward, not upward, for support. He convinced the growing gay masses of ‘Sodom by the Sea’ that they could have a role in city leadership, and they turned out to form ‘human billboards’ for him along major thoroughfares. In doing so, they outed themselves in a way once unthinkable. It was invigorating.”[11] Milk reached out to anyone in his district who would listen by canvassing neighborhoods, turning his camera store into an official voter registration post while leading multiple rallies for gay rights.

In November 1978, after Milk took office, he was confronted with a piece of anti-gay legislation known as the Briggs Initiative, or Proposition 6, which would bar gays from teaching in schools. Because the initiative covered the whole state of California, Milk understood that the only way to convince Californians that gays should not be fired simply because of their sexual orientation was for closeted gays to come out. Milk urged gays all over the United States to come out of the closet, even declaring, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”[12]Proposition 6 was defeated by over one million votes on November 7, 1978, with the support of both Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter, heralding a new tolerance for gays nationwide.[13]

Milk was also a strong believer in nonviolence, which played heavily into his messaging strategy. As his nephew Stuart Milk said, his “commitment to nonviolence was at his very core.”[14] Milk would use his soap-box and bullhorn, rallying the gay community with the slogan “My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you” to march in thousands through the city of San Francisco, but he never let his supporters get out of control.[15] Once elected, Milk left the task of street organization to his grassroots team, who would lead marches to City Hall, where Milk would emerge to calm down the crowd.

While protest rallies and grassroots movements were key tactics in Milk’s campaign, at the core of his strategy was improving the lives of his constituents, even if that meant solving the basic problems of urban dwellers. For example, Milk openly acknowledged that “whoever can solve the dogshit problem [in the city] can be elected mayor of San Francisco, even president of the United States.”[16] Milk followed his own advice, sponsoring a bill which made dog owners pick up after their pets, and organized a press conference in which he purposely stepped in dog waste to make a point. This simple publicity stunt came to define Milk’s career as a politician, not only because he knew how to garner media attention for his cause, but because it represented his desire to solve everyday San Franciscans’ problems.

Outreach Activities

Milk quickly discovered that his fight for equality was supported by not only gays, but also straight working-class, elderly and minority voters, who represented a significant chunk of the voting population in San Francisco. According to the gay community magazine Advocate, “[Milk] molded the gay community into a united voting bloc, and his populist agenda—which attracted straight families, working-class voters, and senior citizens—gave him a powerful base.”[17]

From the start of his political career, Milk sought alliances with local businesses outside the gay community. For example, local workers’ unions had attempted to boycott the Coors beer company for years because of it non-union status, while the gay community faced employment discrimination by the company. With Milk’s ability to bring the two communities together, a unique coalition successfully removed Coors products from all bars in the Castro district of San Francisco. It was this kind of cooperation that led to Milk’s and the gay community’s successes; according to gay activist Cleve Jones, a close friend of Milk’s, “In each community, he found a handful of people who were willing to invite us into their living rooms and churches to talk. Harvey’s reaching out has had an enormous long-term effect on progressive politics and the gay and lesbian community itself. If you look at the photographs of the early days of the gay marches, it’s almost entirely white, long-haired youth. Today, the diversity is extraordinary to me.”[18]

Unfortunately, Harvey Milk’s political career came to a tragic end on November 27, 1978, when he and San Francisco mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, a disgruntled ex-city supervisor who had demanded his job back after resigning weeks earlier. Despite Milk’s passing, his progressive coalition in San Franciscan politics created a legacy of gay tolerance in San Francisco and a model for gay rights advocacy nationwide. The work he did to promote tolerance and equality earned him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, led Time magazine to name him as one of the most influential people of the 20th century, and led the state of California to name a holiday after him on his birthday, May 22.

In 2008, Milk, a Hollywood film of Milk’s life, was released, bringing Milk’s voice to the present-day gay movement in the United States. The film was nominated for eight Oscars, winning two for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. In his Oscar acceptance speech, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black recounted his own experience with Milk’s story: “I heard the story of Harvey Milk, and it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope that one day I could live my life openly as who I am…” Despite his tragic death in 1978, Harvey Milk’s legacy lives on through the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, an alternative school in the Castro district of San Francisco with a strong emphasis on teaching nonviolence and tolerance.[19]

Learn More

News & Analysis

Cloud, John. “The Gay March: A New Generation of Protesters.” Time Magazine. October 12, 2009.

Cloud, John. “The Pioneer Harvey Milk.” Time Magazine. June 14, 1999.

Cohen, Bennett. “The Whole Milk.” San Francisco Magazine. November, 2008.

Cohen, Bennett and Heather Smith. “The Harvey Milk Effect.” San Francisco Magazine. November, 2008.

Fejes, Fred. “The Briggs Initiative Goes National.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. July/August, 2008.

Gilleran, Luke. “Who Was Harvey Milk and Why Is He Important? The Times of Harvey Milk.” Triangle Community Center.

Gilleran, Luke. “Who Was Harvey Milk and Why Is He Important? Power to the People!” Triangle Community Center.

Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy Official Website.

Hope, Randy. “Remembering Harvey Milk.” Gay and Lesbian Times. May 21, 2009.

Ledbetter, Les. “Bill on Homosexual Rights Advances in San Francisco.” New York Times. March 22, 1978.

Martin, Michael. “The Resurrection of Harvey Milk.” The Advocate. November, 2008.

Nolte, Carl. “City Hall: Slayings 25 Years Later.” San Francisco Chronicle. November 26, 2003.

Obstacles to Equality: Government Responses to the Gay Rights Movement in the United States.

Pierceson, Jason. “The Rise and Stagnation of Gay Rights in American Political Development.” Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference. April 12-15, 2007.

Signorile, Michelangelo. “A Journey Through Our Gay Century.” The Advocate. January 18, 2000.

Romero, Francis. “The Presidential Medal of Freedom.” Time Magazine. August 12, 2009.

Ulaby, Neda. “'Gotta Give 'Em Hope': The Legacy Of Harvey Milk.” NPR. November 11, 2008.

Wikipedia. “Harvey Milk.”

“Nation: Another Day of Death.” Time Magazine. December 11, 1978.

“Time 100 Persons of the Century.” Time Magazine. June 14, 1999.

Books

Arethra, David. No Compromise: The Story of Harvey Milk. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds Publishing, 2009.

Clendinen, Dudley and Adam Nagourney. Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1999.

Shilts, Randy. The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1982.

Footnotes
[1] Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney. Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1999. 22-24.
[2] Ibid. 31.
[3] Cloud, John. “The Pioneer Harvey Milk.” Time Magazine. June 14, 1999.
[4] Shilts, Randy. The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1982. 362.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Hope, Randy. “Remembering Harvey Milk.” Gay and Lesbian Times. May 21, 2009.
[7] Martin, Michael. “The Resurrection of Harvey Milk.” The Advocate. November, 2008.
[8] Shilts 371.
[9] Ibid. 363.
[10] Fejes, Fred. “The Briggs Initiative Goes National.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. July/August, 2008.
[11] Cloud.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Hope.
[15] Epstein, Rob. “The Times of Harvey Milk.” Hulu, 1984.
[16] Shilts 203.
[17] Martin.
[18] Cohen, Bennett and Heather Smith. “The Harvey Milk Effect.” San Francisco Magazine. November, 2008.
[19] Francis Romero. “The Presidential Medal of Freedom.” Time Magazine. August 12, 2009“Time 100 Persons of the Century.” Time Magazine. June 14, 1999Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy Official Website; Hope.

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 Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1940

 There can be only one permanent revolution — a moral one; the regeneration of the inner man. How is this revolution to take place? Nobody knows how it will take place in humanity, but every man feels it clearly in himself. And yet in our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, 1900

 The time must come when, great and pressing as change and betterment may be, they do not involve killing and hurting people.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Dark Princess, 1928

 I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

- Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, "I Have a Dream", August 28, 1963

 I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is vertical, so it's humiliating. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other and learns from the other. I have a lot to learn from other people.

- Eduardo Galeano (1940-present), Uruguyan journalist, writer, and novelist, 2004

 I have no animosity towards anyone. Whoever displays human dignity, regardless of their religion or faith, I bow my head before them and hold them dear.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 More dangerous than bayonets and cannon are the weapons of the mind.

- Ludwig Van Mises (1881-1973), leader of the Austrian School of economic thought, Liberalism, 1927

 If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), 35th President of the United States, October 10, 1960

 Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 Injustice, poverty, slavery, ignorance — these may be cured by reform or revolution. But men do not live only by fighting evils. They live by positive goals, individual and collective, a vast variety of them, seldom predictable, at times incompatible.

- Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997), Russo-British Jewish social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century, Foreign Affairs, 1950

 We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, February 25, 1999

 If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1961), 35th President of the United States, Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963

 Each person must live their life as a model for others.

- Rosa Parks (1913-2005), African-American civil rights activist

 Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: "What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews."

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated as May 22, 1944

 Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

- Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic, Almansor, 1821

 Where in this wide world can a person find nobility without pride, friendship without envy or beauty without vanity? Here, where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined. He serves without servility, he has fought without enmity. There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent; there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

- Ronald Duncan (1914-1982)

 It is a worthy thing to fight for one's freedom; it is another sight finer to fight for another man's.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American author and humorist, June 17, 1898

 We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July, 6, 1944

 I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher, Anna Karenina, 1877

 The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God's image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideal, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in his.

- Jonathan Sacks (1948 - present), rabbi, philosopher and scholar of Judaism, The Dignity of Difference, 2002

 Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Compassion is not religious business, it is human business. It is not a luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935 - present), spiritual leader of Tibet

 I believe in God who made of one blood all races that dwell on earth. I believe that all men, black and brown and white, are brothers, varying through Time and Opportunity, in form and gift and feature, but differing in no essential particular, and alike in soul and in the possibility of infinite development.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, 1920

 Christian, Jew, Muslim, shaman, Zoroastrian, stone, ground, mountain, river, each has a secret way of being with the mystery, unique and not to be judged.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 It is my inmost conviction, Badshah Khan said, that Islam is amal, yakeen, muhabat – selfless service, faith, and love.

- Badshah Khan (1890-1988), Pashtun independence activist

 Many of our problems are created by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, resources, economic status or other factors. The time has come to think on a deeper, more human level and appreciate and respect our sameness as human beings.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 All of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us.... this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God.... And that, simply, is blasphemy.

- Pope Francis (1936-present), May 22, 2013

 At every level of society, familial, tribal, national and international, the key to a happier and more peaceful and successful world is the growth of compassion.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), The Compassionate Life, 2001

 I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Age of Reason, 1794

 Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944

 It is the enemy who can truly teach us to practice the virtues of compassion and tolerance.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), Ocean of Wisdom: Guidelines for Living, 1989

 And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live in somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me unless there is peace and joy finally for you too.

- Frederick Buechner (1926-present), American writer and theologian

 The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, John Brown, 1909

 Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.

- John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher, Second Treatise of Government, 1689

 WHAT is tolerance? it is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly--that is the first law of nature.

- Voltaire (1694-1778), French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, 1764

 Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present), spiritual leader of Tibet, September 21, 2012

 Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1886

 [W]e are all guilty in some Measure of the same narrow way of Thinking... when we fancy the Customs, Dresses, and Manners of other Countries are ridiculous and extravagant, if they do not resemble those of our own.

- Joseph Addison (1672-1719), English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician, 1711

 Freedom of judgment must necessarily be permitted and people must be governed in such a way that they can live in harmony, even though they openly hold different and contradictory opinions.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 I truly believe the only way we can create global peace is through not only educating our minds, but our hearts and our souls.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, September 3, 2013

 I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated July 15, 1944

 Even God doesn't propose to judge a man till his last days, why should you and I?

- Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), American self-help author and lecturer

 The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

- Pablo Casals (1876-1973), Spanish cellist, 1974

 While differing widely in the various little bits we know, in our infinite ignorance we are all equal.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge, 1963

 It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.

- Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), French philosopher, 1686

 You must not treat others with cruelty and that much harshly, you must fight others but through peace and through dialogue and through education.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Prize laureate, October 10, 2013

 There's in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated, and grown will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, entry dated May 3, 1944

 My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, The Rights of Man, 1791

 I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any. I refuse to live in other people’s houses as an interloper, a beggar or a slave.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness … the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 Human nature is not simple and any classification that roughly divides men into good and bad, superior and inferior, slave and free, is and must be ludicrously untrue and universally dangerous as a permanent exhaustive classification.

- W.E.B Dubois (1868-1963), African American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Evolution of the Race Problem, 1909

 Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 16, 1966

 There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, June 27, 1990

 The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors. Our political life is also predicated on openness. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it and that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. And we know that as long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress.

- Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), American theoretical physicist

 If we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.

- T. H. White (1906-1964), English author

 Anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1969-1948), leader of Indian independence movement

 The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous.

- Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), African-American abolitionist and U.S. minister to Haiti from 1889 to 1891, Speech on the twenty-fourth anniversary of Emancipation in the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C., April 1885

 A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.

- Desmund Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, September 7, 1986

 You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.

- William Wilberforce (1759-1833), English abolitionist, 1791

 No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship or ministry or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1786

 It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar... It is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one's] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

 I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.

- Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer

 I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, I am Prepared to Die, Statement in the Rivonia Trial, Pretoria Supreme Court, April 20, 1964

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

- Martin Niemöller (1892-1984), German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor, January 6, 1946

 I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.

- Socrates (469 BC-399 BC), Greek philosopher

 [Most] can seldom discern even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as obliges them to admit the falsity of conclusions they have formed, perhaps with much difficulty — conclusions of which they are proud, which they have taught to others, and on which they have built their lives.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian novelist, playwright, and philosopher

 We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.

- Malala Yousafzai (1997-present), Pakistani activist for female education and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, July 12, 2013

 I knew that to really minister to Rwanda's needs meant working toward reconciliation in the prisons, in the churches, and in the cities and villages throughout the country. It meant feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the young, but it also meant healing the wounded and forgiving the unforgivable.

- John Rucyahana (1945-present), former Rwandan Anglican bishop, The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones, 2007

 Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because he is wrong or even because he is right, but because he is human.

- John Cogley (1916-1976), author of Religion in a Secular Age, 1968

 We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Loving Your Enemies, 1957

 We need a little more compassion, and if we cannot have it then no politician or even a magician can save the planet.

- 14th Dalai Lama (1935-present)

 A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), German-born theoretical physicist, 1950

 I was heartened that people everywhere want certain basic freedoms, even if they live in a totally different cultural environment.

- Aung San Suu Kyi (1945-present), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma, 2012

 I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.

- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Author of the Declaration of Independence and Third President of the United States,Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia, December 23, 1791

 Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.

- Joshua Loth Liebman (1907-1948), American rabbi and best-selling author, Peace of Mind: Insights on Human Nature That Can Change Your Life, 1946

 If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated.

- Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, April 2, 2013

 No rational argument will have a rational effect on a man who does not want to adopt a rational attitude.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself.

- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), American lawyer, May 8, 1888

 We all know we are unique individuals, but we tend to see others as representatives of groups.

- Deborah Tannen (1945-present), linguist and author, You Just Don't Understand, 1990

 How many paths are there to God? There are as many paths to God as there are souls on the Earth.

- Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic

 No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion.... My belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.

- Stephen Fry (1957-present), English comedian, actor, writer, presenter, and activist, 1993

 To build a future you have to know the past.

- Otto Frank (1889-1980), Holocaust survivor who was a German-born businessman and father of Anne and Margot Frank, 1967

 Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

- William James (1842-1910), American philosopher and psychologist

 How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

- Anne Frank (1929-1945), author of The Diary of a Young Girl, 1942-1944, March 26, 1944

 I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.

- Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), Dutch philosopher, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670

 Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet.

- Maya Angelou (1928-2014), American poet and author

 The golden rule of conduct... is mutual toleration, seeing that we will never all think alike and we shall always see Truth in fragment and from different angles of vision. Even amongst the most conscientious persons, there will be room enough for honest differences of opinion. The only possible rule of conduct in any civilised society is, therefore, mutual toleration.

- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), leader of Indian independence movement, 1927

 Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa

 Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, 1995

 For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

- Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black president of South Africa,Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, 1995

 The open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence.

- Karl Popper (1902-1994), Austrian-British philosopher, The Open Society and its Enemies, 1945

 I respect Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Bahá’ís, etc., even non-believers who believe in the principles of humanity. I love them dearly and kiss the hands of each and every one of them.

- Masoumi Tehrani, senior Iranian cleric

 God's dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.

- Desmond Tutu (1931-present), South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, April 26, 2005

 He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.

- Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, July 1795

 Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), American Baptist minister and leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, Strength to Love, 1963

 From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.

- Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992), economist and philosopher, 1944

 If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, political economist and civil servant, On Liberty, 1859

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About Tavaana

Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society is Iran’s pioneer e-learning institute. Tavaana – meaning ‘empowered’ and ‘capable’ in Persian – was launched on May 17, 2010 with a mission to support active citizenship and civic leadership in Iran through a multi-platform civic education and civil society capacity building program. Tavaana holds a vision for a free and open Iranian society, one in which each and every Iranian enjoys equality, justice and the full spectrum of civil and political liberties.

About The Tolerance Project

The Tolerance Project aims to inspire conscience, pluralism, religious freedom, and celebration of difference. Using an array of educational materials in Arabic, Persian, and English, The Tolerance Project emphasizes the capacity of each and every individual to counter hate, and imparts the benefits of living in tolerant, open societies. The Tolerance Project educates to prevent persecution and genocide, cultivating the basis for vibrant and stable societies in the broader Middle East.

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