Few of us are popular growing up, and even fewer attain the status once they’ve left their nest. Yet society demands it. From beauty magazines to the movie industry, the media is sending a clear message that we should all aim to be rich, good looking, and preferably adorn a billboard or two.
That’s not necessarily bad if these goals are within reach. But for most of the world’s population, they’re not. Promoting such a culture when only a select few hold the winning ticket may not be the best approach to achieving a sane society.
This ideology was shared by former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai E. Stevenson Jr., who strongly believed in building the world through teamwork, not individualism. During one of his many eloquent speeches, the diplomat once quipped:
My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.
—Adlai Stevenson II (Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.)
In Stevenson Jr.’s opinion, a free society isn’t one where individuals seek validation, beat others to the finish line, earn more each year, etc. Instead, the politician sought to promote equality as a sure way to achieving a relaxed culture where everyone is free to pursue a path that they feel is right for them. If it sounds idealistic, it’s because Stevenson Jr. himself could be characterized as such.
Widely regarded for his promotion of liberal causes in the Democratic Party, Adlai Ewing Stevenson II served as the 31st Governor of Illinois, and received the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 1952. This, despite not even campaigning in the primaries. Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. wrote that, to the United States and the world, Adlai Stevenson II was the voice of a reasonable, civilized, and elevated America.