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Morris Human Rights Commission

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend." - Thomas Jefferson

The election has drawn to a close, the people have made their choices on issues and representatives, and soon will be the time for the work of our elected officials to legislate, adjudicate, and administrate. With the election over, it is also time for citizens to be respectful of the decisions made from the votes cast on Election Day.

Curious that a member of the Morris Human Rights Commission would be writing about elections, voting, and citizens' responsibilities? The commitment of human rights organizations is to value diversity, protect the rights of all individuals, and strive to meet the needs of all individuals. It would seem that good citizenship is all about human rights; the responsibilities of citizens are to vote, be informed and participate in government, and respect diversity and the rights of others.

Following this particularly divisive election, citizens' responsibility to respect the rights of those with whom we disagree is as important as ever. While considering the direction of this article, I came across this lesson intended to teach youth about citizenship. However, the lesson is as much about valuing human rights as it is about good citizenship. Here are just a few of the simple reminders to all of us, young and old: "People show respect in many ways. They speak and act civilly--avoiding insults, cruel remarks and rude or crude language. They are courteous and considerate of others, including family members and friends, and care about their rights, beliefs and well-being. They treat others fairly and as individuals, regardless of race, sex, age or ethnic group. They display tolerance for people who do not share their personal beliefs and likes--so long as those people do not harm others." (Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen, U.S. Deptartment of Education).

One of our country's greatest strengths is the diversity of its people with a variety of religions, traditions, and lifestyles. When there is respect of each other's ideas and beliefs, real discussions and exchanges of ideas happen which can only make our communities better.

"The messages that separate us are so strong. When we don't have people honoring the messages of commonality and appreciation for each other, the messages of divisiveness and differences grow stronger and stronger." - Cheryl Beckett, killed in August 2010 while serving as a humanitarian aid worker in Afghanistan.

Ann Streed is a social worker at Stevens County Human Services. She has been a member of the Morris Human Rights Commission since 1999.

This article is part of a 15-week series on human rights organized by the Morris Human Rights Commission to celebrate their 15th anniversary. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Morris Human Rights Commission, but of individual members and contributors, as the HRC advocates free speech and discussion.