Albert Einstein: An Advocate for All
Despite his prestige as the father of the Theory of Relativity, creation of the atomic bomb and rep as the smartest man of the century, Albert Einstein has a solidifed legacy that’s omitted much of his dedication to justice. Many significant details are missing from the numerous studies of Einstein’s life and work, most of them having to do with Einstein’s advocacy for a more inclusive and equitable world. Unbeknownst to most, Einstein parlayed his public admiration into promoting causes outside of physics that were dear to his heart, used his position of power and influence to create a conversation, and sparked social change. His humility and constant battle for the sake of others is the most admirable– regardless if he was fighting an uphill battle for minorities, regardless that he didn’t gain anything for himself, and regardless that he was never given the recognition he deserved, his humanity is what guided every decision he made.
During WWII and onwards, Einstein heavily advocated for the safety of his Jewish community and eventually, the justice that the African American society deserves in the United States. Escaping the hand of the Nazis in 1933, Einstein requested Winston Churchill to seek out intellectual Jewish scientists in Germany and place them in British universities. Later that year, Einstein wrote a letter to the Turkish Prime Minister that resulted in saving 1,000 individuals from persecution. In the 1940s, under refugee status in the United States, he rallied for reform in the Ivy League education system for having an impertinent Jewish quota (of which is gravely never mentioned once in a single textbook) that would disband a decade later. During the same time, Einstein joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and campaigned for the civil rights of African Americans. When he offered to be a character witness for W.E.B Du Bois, who was on trial at the time, the judge decided to drop the case. He gave countless of speeches at Princeton about racial segregation being the America’s biggest disease, stating, “I do not intend to be quiet about this.”
While Einstein may have been grateful to have found a safe haven, his gratitude did not prevent him from criticizing the ethical shortcomings of his new home. He had been sensitized to racism during his time in Europe and his empathy guided him to advocate for a more inclusive United States community for African Americans. He recognized that he was in a new and more privileged position to help others, and didn’t allow the fear of exclusion to silence his empathy.
When I was exposed to this side of Einstein that was never apparent in my K-12 education, I was thrown off guard because all we’ve ever heard about him was his academic intelligence and how that was his most valuable contribution to this world. I suppose this is due to the fact that it wouldn’t be beneficial to the system to have one of the smartest men of the century question and challenge the current system in place. Despite having his works in advocacy ignored and forgotten by the media, Einstein never sought to have his named marked in history as a social change advocate but rather measured his success through the lives that he could touch. In addition, he was never afraid to create noise and constantly called out all the injustices that he knew had to be challenged. This is the kind of bravery that I value in leaders and in so many instances, Einstein demonstrates his integrity, inclusion, intelligence, and humility that I hope to one day find just as much in myself.