The past few weeks have been stressful for many waiting on decisions from the Supreme Court to the Texas Legislature. We watched and heard emotional testimony and stories that made our hearts ache as well as soar at times, with humanity at its worst and finest, as opposite sides with equal passion take their defense stance and wage a war that both sides feel must be won. No matter what side you find yourself on, I have one word for you “Tolerance”, it means to recognize and respect (the rights, beliefs, or practices of others).

Are you tolerant of others? Or are you the type of person who “de-friends or blocks” people from their Facebook account simply because they have different beliefs? Do you belittle people and try to demoralize them for their stance on certain issues? Do your friends reflect your tolerance levels? Without tolerance I find it doubtful that we can ever have meaningful conversations that continue to facilitate change in this country. God knows we need it in Washington these days!

Tolerance does not have to agree with someone, it is simply being open to listening, discussing, and treating them with respect. I have been guilty of being intolerant of some issues in my younger years, because I was unwilling to listen to the other side. As I have matured, and been much more tolerant of others, on occasion, my mind has been changed. I have learned that I don’t know everything, and some things are not and will not be answered in my lifetime. I have to tolerate not knowing. My friendships encompass all types of ethnicities, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and religions. I love and respect them all equally. These relationships have and will keep me learning, growing, and evolving.

Barbara Jordan said it best. She was the first African-American woman elected to Congress. She was a Democrat from Texas. (Republicans thinking of stopping here read on.) In her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 1976 she said, “How do we create a harmonious society out of so many kinds of people? The key is tolerance—the one value that is indispensable in creating community.” How true this is even today.

At the end of her speech she announced she would close by quoting a Republican President, (Democrats please read on) asking her audience to listen to the words of Abraham Lincoln, and asking them to relate it to the concept of a national community in which every last one of us participates. The quote from Abraham Lincoln was “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of Democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference is no Democracy.”

Barbara Jordan’s keynote address is rated #5 of the top 100 speeches given in the 20th century. Her words resonated with people in 1976 and they will resonate with you today in 2013.