Stan D. Soderstrom is the executive director of Kiwanis International and the Kiwanis Children’s Fund. His background includes global and community-based work in the public and private sectors.

Watching the civil unrest in the United States in recent days, our organization’s initial response was to encourage calm and patience — and to listen.  

In recent days, we have heard from some members who have told us that is not enough.

We are listening. We are learning. And as we do, we also want to be clear on where we stand.

Kiwanis International does not tolerate racism. We know that black lives matter. We value inclusion from every community in every nation.  We also know there’s more work to be done.

We know that in the United States, citizens have a right to protest, to advocate and to petition their government for redress of grievances. We support both the responsible exercise of this right and the freedom to use it without the fear of physical violence.  

We are saddened by the vandalism and violence but can understand how we’ve gotten here.  

The Kiwanis family will continue to stand for bringing people together to make a difference in any and every community we can. Our solution is not to be the loudest voice on any specific issue, but to help everyone see that resolution can only come by listening and working together. That has been a successful strategy for Kiwanis for more than a century, and it can be the only path forward for our members in the United States and around the world.