Keeping My Mind Open

Liam - Colchester, Vermont
Entered on December 10, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in having beliefs as well as an open mind. I believe that everyone in this world is entitled to their own opinion, and they should exercise this right. While I have my own set of personal beliefs, I will also always hold an open mind in case I encounter a belief that is more conducive to my character. I believe in respect for others and for others’ beliefs and I believe in entering every day and every situation with open ears and an open mind.

Growing up in a liberal family in Massachusetts, I adopted the belief that while Republicans were to be respected, Democrats were more suited to run the country. I learned that the Kennedy family was God’s gift to politics and that Bill Clinton was the greatest president of my lifetime. I also learned that whatever came out of my 89-year-old grandfather’s mouth was not to be repeated. My grandfather grew up in a time when racism was socially acceptable and never felt the need to censor his remarks. Being a fairly conservative man, it was no surprise that he had voted for the Bush family four times. This past year, amid the backdrop of yet another presidential election, my grandfather did something that shocked me. He and one of his friends were talking about the election and his friend mentioned how he planned on voting for John McCain. I assumed that my grandfather would also be voting for his fellow Navy man. Obviously you can understand how shocked I was when my grandfather went on a tirade, calling his friend a racist and proclaiming that Barack Obama was clearly most fit to be president. When I heard my grandfather’s outburst, I had an incredible realization: although my grandfather had held the same beliefs for almost all of his long life, he still left his mind open to other ideas and other beliefs.

My grandfather taught me an important lesson that summer day: stating your beliefs and then closing your mind to other’s views is far worse than not even having beliefs by which you live. Being an eighteen-year-old college freshman, I am still firm in the beliefs that were instilled in me as a child. This confidence, however, does not affect my open-mindedness. Whenever I enter into conversation with someone of conflicting beliefs, I remember my grandfather and I remember the importance of holding an open mind. The absence of personal beliefs and the advent of same-mindedness would be detrimental to our society. Our nation was founded on the right to have and express differing beliefs. To close one’s ears and mind to opposing views, however, would be even more dangerous than a lack of difference. This I believe.