Lesson of the Week

Celebrating diversity: I honor people who are different than I am

What color is Tony the Tiger’s nose?   What word is to the left of Lincoln’s face on the U.S. penny?    You might have seen them many times, but do you really know them?

Tony the Tiger’s nose is blue.  The word is Liberty.  If you didn’t know this, are you surprised?  Now think about more complex relationships – those with friends, relatives, business associates, acquaintances.  How well do you really know them?  How is this knowledge impacting your own success?  A key to success is celebrating diversity and honoring people who are different from you.  This is done by truly understanding and knowing similarities and differences between you and others and learning how to safely and effectively be connected to them.

Augusto and Michaela Odone needed to cure their son’s rare disease Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD).  They would not accept his doctor’s hopeless prognosis.  Why weren’t people coming together to help them?  Some scientists and doctors were not ready, willing, or able to share information. The Odones pestered people from diverse cultures and disciplines – reviewing studies, badgering researchers, and organizing an international conference.  They were able to accomplish what an entire profession could not do – bring together world research and give hope to children who have the ALD gene and have not yet had symptoms.  (Watch the Odones’ inspiring story.  The movie is called, “Lorenzo’s Oil”  The story is inspiring although use of the oil has not proven effective after the onset of symptoms.)  Although the oil did not reverse the damage done to Lorenzo, he lived to be thirty years old.

The Odones’ mission’s success was completely dependent on uniting diverse people – individuals with different ethnic, language, occupation, education, and ethical backgrounds.

What can you accomplish by celebrating diversity on your mission?  You might ask Roger Wilkins.  He is a successful Pulitzer Prize winning champion for the welfare of others.  He stated, “We have no hope of solving our problems without harnessing the diversity, the energy, and the creativity of all our people.”  Another champion of diversity is Tim Berners-Lee.  He is the British computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web.  He gave the world the potential to know and celebrate each other.  He wrote, “We need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges.”

Take the opportunity to celebrate diversity in your mission and honor others who are different.  Here are some examples of what you can do:  Assemble a diverse group of people on your mission board, research new evidence based methods online and incorporate them into your practice, invite unlikely individuals to help you solve problems, make friends with enemies (when it is safe to do so), or open up your mission to partners from other missions.  Honor others and you too will be honored.


Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.

- Malcolm Forbes, Publisher Forbes Magazine


Activity: Venn and the Meeting of the Minds

Materials:  Paper and pen or pencil

Time:  Ten minutes to write and ten minutes for each person to discuss their results.


1. Set a timer for one minute.  Start the timer and in one minute make a list of the number of ways people can be different from you.

2.  Think of a person that annoys you and with whom you do not get along.  For example this could be a person at work, family member, friend, relative, acquaintance, neighbor, telephone service operator, a shop assistant, or business owner.  Write down an anonymous name or pseudonym for this person.

3. Draw a large Venn diagram with two intersecting circles.  Write your name above one circle and write the other person’s pseudonym above the other circle.

4.  Fill in the Venn diagram’s three distinct sections.  In the middle section, fill in ways that you are similar to this person.  On your side fill in ways you are different from the other person.  On her/his side fill in ways s/he is different from you.

5.  Discuss the following questions with the group:
a) What is the most significant way that you are different from this person?
b) What is the most significant way that you are similar to this person or share common ground?
c) How can you get along with this person and still maintain your differences?
d) How can getting along with this person improve your mission?



I am celebrating diversity so I can …… We’d like to hear your story about honoring people who are different than you are. Write your story below.


  1. Maureen Jordan 08/2/12
    11:04 pm

    Peter, I was hoping you would engage back into our conversation. I would enjoy hearing yor comments about what Suzy and I wrote.


  2. Maureen Jordan 07/31/12
    12:22 pm

    Wow, I hadn’t realized we needed to “fight it out”. I just wanted to start a converation and give an opinion from another perspective. I hope I didn’t come across as being disrespectful to Peter. I was speaking in the context of the meaning of honor as possibly being affected by cultural and gender generalities, not personnally! The goal is to talk, not to fight over who is right!
    And, speaking again in generalities, I am particularly sensitive to the gross disrespect of President Obama by those who should be serving as role models for our youth. If those in public roles display such poor manners, how can we expect that our kids will learn to be respectful? People from other cultures treat their leaders with respect and again, a definition of honor.


  3. Maureen Jordan 07/30/12
    11:27 pm

    There are many meanings to the word “honor”, and they differ in subtle ways. I am certain that cultural differences make precise definition more interesting; and this may be a wonderful illustration of Suzy’s lesson. An American man might view as Peter does: bestowing honor is done by the obsevor, only after he judges whether or not the person is deserving; and he alone is the one who can bestow the honor. It is a way of determining power, thus he needs to see that someone has demonstrated that he has done something to be more worthy of respect. However, honor can also be defined as a gesture of deference; for example, children defer to parents. Or, we defer to the office of the President. For example, goods manners dictate that we don’t interrupt our President while giving a speech, much less yell out, “You Lie!” Unfortunately, many in our American culture have lost the subtle meaning honoring one another. And this makes us all collectively dishonorable as a culture.


  4. OK. I don’t want to be a stink-pot or anything, but I’m having a problem with the word ‘honor’. I have no problem RESPECTING people. (Although there are those whose actions – or lack of action – may cause me to withdraw my respect for them.) I save HONOR for those who have done something above and beyond themselves for another person. There is really no way of knowing that has occurred upon first meeting someone.


    • What a wonderful example of diversity you have given — you save the word honor “for those who have done something above and beyond themselves for another person.” Maureen writes below that she sees honor as “a gesture of deference”. Now the question is: Can two people with such differing views coexist and accomplish a meaningful mission or must they fight it out until the mission is destroyed? How does this concept play out in politics, sports, economics — the concept of two diverse people getting along to create a more constructive world rather than a destructive one? Thanks for your comment Peter.


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