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Studying history and culture helped Adlai Stevenson gain a broader perspective about the world.

 
One of Stevenson's strengths, especially as ambassador to the UN, was his curiosity. He traveled widely to the far-flung corners of the globe. He was curious about different cultures and different economic and political systems. He was curious about how people lived today and in the past. This helped him understand why other nations and other peoples did not always agree with the United States.

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An Ethic for Survival, Address to the Jewish Theological Seminary


Excerpt: "...there is, in every culture and every society, much that everyone can respect, and from which everyone can learn. There is no group of people so mean and so humble that they have only to be our pupils, and cannot in any respect offer us instruction."
(May 23, 1961)


Background: In this brief but perceptive speech, Stevenson called on American citizens to open their eyes and ears to the wider world. He believed it was important to listen to and learn from other nations, even those at odds with American interests. Stevenson delivered this speech during the Cold War, a time when the U.S. and the Soviet Union threatened to annihilate each other with nuclear weapons. Survival, Stevenson believed, depended on nations using nonviolent means to settle their differences. He believed the United Nations offered a peaceful forum for nations to discuss their problems and settle their grievances.

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