Everything in America Is “All Right!” 1
Over the next two days ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is going to speak to a number of peace societies in the New York area, after which he will travel upstate to deliver the opening talk at the Eighteenth Annual Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration. It takes place every year at a lake resort about ninety miles north of the city, nestled among the mountains. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated that attending this conference is one of the primary reasons for his visit to America….
As his audience listens, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells a story of the day before in Washington, when a Justice of the Supreme Court, accompanied by a DC politician, arrived to speak with him. The politician disputed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s position that throughout history religion has primarily been a cause of unity, rather than mainly a pretext for disagreement. Having convinced the politician, he noticed that the Justice had fallen silent. Concerned, he asked if the judge had found anything in the conversation objectionable. “Not at all! Not at all!” he replied, “It’s all right! It’s all right!” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá repeats it over and over—“All right! All right!”—and sends a ripple of laughter through the room.
“Wherever you go you hear it,” he later observed. “You ask the bell boy at the hotel to do something and he responds, ‘All right’; you inquire as to the health of a friend and he answers, ‘All right’; everything is ‘all right.’”
“I have never heard this expression used in any other country, and I believe that it reflects the optimism of this great country.”
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts 2
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived in New York on Saturday, May 11, His thirty-first day in America, He rented one to the top story flats in the Hudson Apartment House, overlooking the Hudson River. As the friends joyously gathered to welcome Him back, He reviewed the trip:
“It is only three weeks that we have been away from the New York friends, yet so great has been the longing to see you that it seems like three months. We have had no rest by day or night since we left you; either traveling, moving about or speaking, yet it was all so pleasantly done and we have been most happy …
“… We met savants and learned men and satisfied them with our explanations …
“Yesterday in Washington we met a group of important people …
“There were … at this meeting several cabinet officers, United States senators, many from the foreign diplomatic service, army and navy officials and other dignitaries … We spoke to all from their own standpoints with most satisfactory results …
“In Washington, too, we called a meeting of the colored and white people. The attendance was very large, the colored people predominating. At our second gathering this was reversed but at the third meeting we were unable to say which color predominated. These meetings were a great practical lesson upon the unity of colors and races in the Bahai teaching. 3
Talk at 227 Riverside Drive, New York
God maketh no distinction between the white and the black. If the hearts are pure both are acceptable unto Him. God is no respecter of persons on account of either color or race. All colors are acceptable to Him, be they white, black, or yellow. Inasmuch as all were created in the image of God, we must bring ourselves to realize that all embody divine possibilities. If you go into a garden and find all the flowers alike in form, species and color, the effect is wearisome to the eye. The garden is more beautiful when the flowers are many-colored and different; the variety lends charm and adornment. In a flock of doves some are white, some black, red, blue; yet they make no distinction among themselves. All are doves no matter what the color.
This variety in forms and colorings which is manifest in all the kingdoms is according to creative wisdom and has a divine purpose. Nevertheless, whether the creatures be all alike or all different should not be the cause of strife and quarreling among them. Especially why should man find cause for discord in the color or race of his fellow creature? No educated or illumined mind will allow that this differentiation and discord should exist or that there is any ground for it. Therefore, the whites should be just and kind to the blacks, who in turn should reflect an equal measure of appreciation and gratitude. Then will the world become as one great garden of flowering humanity, variegated and multicolored, rivaling each other only in the virtues and graces which are spiritual. 4
Saturday, May 11, 1912 5
The Master made preparations to leave for New York. Some people who had not been able to see Him previously came to visit and He spoke to them about His journey and the spreading of universal peace, which is one of the commandments of Bahá’u’lláh.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá left for the railway station, where several believers were waiting to bid Him farewell. They were down-hearted at being separated from their Beloved, who had showered them with such kindness and blessings.
In New York, the friends who were waiting for the Master took Him to the Hudson building on Riverside Drive where He was to stay. He said to them:
“We went to Chicago and Washington and now we have come back again. Time passed very pleasantly. The people of America are highly accomplished. They desire to acquire understanding and they wish to make progress. When one sees a tree growing, one should feel hopeful that it will give flowers and bring forth fruits. People asked questions and on hearing the answers they contended no more. Most of the ministers who came would express agreement. Those who asked us questions on important topics were delighted on hearing the answers. The religious leaders of other countries are not so inclined but are more bent on contention. We met very good ministers in Chicago. Some invited us to their churches and we had lengthy conversations with them. One of them, Dr Milburn [Dr. Joseph A Milburn of the Plymouth Congregational Church], invited us to supper at his home. My purpose in mentioning all this is to convey that all showed agreement and acceptance.
“Just yesterday we spoke in Washington with a number of notable persons, judges, and also a friend of Roosevelt. As we were talking about the unifying influence of different religions, and concord among nations, this friend said that Christ was a source of differences. But when we explained to him the coming together of different nations under the canopy of the word of Christ, he smiled and accepted the point. Others, too, expressed great delight. When I asked him if he had any other question or objection, he replied that he had none at all. When asked if he accepted all these statements, he said, ‘All right.’
When the Master spoke the words ‘all right’ in English, the friends were amused and a ripple of laughter went around the room. He then spoke on the unification of the blacks and whites of America.
That evening at a public reception at His home, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke about the divine favors bestowed on the people of Bahá and encouraged the friends to be grateful for such bestowals and blessings.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “Everything in America Is ‘All Right!’” 239 Days in America, May 11, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/11/everything-in-america-is-all-right/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 65-66. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 111-112. [https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/7#650792604] ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 113. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/8#663966339 ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. [https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=3#section48]. ↩