By Barbara Russell
On Oct. 21, 1985, First Lady Nancy Reagan presented the United Nations with the gift of a mosaic on behalf of the United States in celebration of its 40th anniversary. The mosaic is based on Norman Rockwell’s well-known painting which represents different ethnicities and cultures worldwide with dignity and respect. The mosaic is inscribed with the phrase known as the Golden Rule: “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You,” which speaks of shared aspirations that unify world religions and philosophies. It is the principle of treating others as one wants to be treated.
One the oldest quotes dates back to the philosopher Confucius who lived in China between the sixth and seventh centuries BC: “Is there any one maxim which ought to be action upon throughout one’s whole life? Surely the maxim of loving kindness is such — do not do unto others what you would not they should do unto you.”
Artist Eric Bess reflected on the significance of Norman Rockwell’s painting, saying, “It serves as not only a call to action, a directive, but also a reminder of what we deeply desire irrespective of our differences: kindness. What else is there to practice other than what we wish for ourselves?”
Kindness is selfless, compassionate and merciful, a main topic of the Bible and many philosophies.
Christianity: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-man.”
Baha’i: “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others.”
Buddhism: “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.”’
Sikhism: “As thou deemest thyself so deem others.”
Islam: “You do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness.”
The Golden Rule is the basis for the concept of human rights; that people have the right to just treatment, and in turn, a responsibility to ensure justice for all. As 1931 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jane Addams said: “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”
In 1923, Arthur Nash published The Golden Rule in Business, the story of a tiny business becoming the world’s largest garment manufacturer by the constant application of the Golden Rule. J.C. Penney believed “the Golden Rule was meant for business as much as for other human relationships” and opened the Golden Rule Store in Wyoming in 1902.
Inclusion, which is kindness in action, is considered a universal human right. It provides equal access and opportunities without discrimination and intolerance. The goal is to embrace all people irrespective of race, gender, disability, economic situation or geographic zone. Inclusive designs such as traffic lights that help the blind and accessible sidewalks for disabled people affirm the right to be included in public life. Third-grader Sammie Vance, one of People’s Girls Changing the World in 2021, founded the Buddy Bench as a way to promote inclusion when she realized so many people were lonely and some of her fellow students were being excluded.
The Golden Rule incorporates the rights that all people hope for and deserve — to be born free and to live and be treated equally with dignity and basic human rights. Learning about each other makes it easier to be understanding. Being understanding spreads love and peace through the multicultural words, music, traditions and celebrations we hear echoed throughout the month of December.
The Boundary County Human Rights Task Force encourages all people to honor their traditions, express gratitude, work for peace and to remember the Golden Rule.
Barbara Russell is the chair of Boundary County Human Rights Task Force.
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