On March 2, 2017, Christian evangelist leader Franklin Graham “called for a boycott of Disney”(link is external) because “Disney has aired a cartoon with same-sex couples kissing(link is external). It has also been announced that their new movie ‘Beautyand the Beast’ will feature a gay character in an attempt to normalize this lifestyle.”

According to Graham, Disney is “trying to push the LGBT agenda(link is external) into the hearts and minds of your children.” He also says that Walt Disney "would be shocked at what has happened to the company that he started.” Moreover, Graham claims to know this because “he met Walt Disney when [he] was a young boy(link is external)—he was very gracious to [him], his father Billy Graham, and [his] younger brother when [they] visited.”

Is Graham correct in his belief? Nobody will ever know for certain because Walt Disney died in 1966. We do, however, know Walt Disney’s beliefs, as he conveyed them, as well as those held by Graham. 

Let’s start with Disney’s beliefs through the following quotes that have been attributed to him:

Then, there’s “It's a Small World(link is external) (currently styled it's a small world), a water-based dark ride located in the Fantasyland area at each of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide: Disneyland Park in California, the Magic Kingdom in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. The ride features over 300 audio-animatronic dolls in traditional costumes from cultures around the world, frolicking in a spirit of international unity and singing the attraction's title song, which has a theme of global peace…. [The installations within the ride] wind the flume around one large room, emphasizing its theme that the world is small and interconnected.”

Of course, there’s also the song It's a Small World (After All)(link is external), written “in the wake of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which influenced the song's message of peace and brotherhood.”

The lyrics to It's a Small World (After All)(link is external) are as follows:

"It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears
There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all

It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small world after all
It's a small, small world

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears
There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all"

What does all this mean, you ask?  It means that at his core, Walt Disney believed in the power of empathy.

The following is an excerpt from Empathy in Conflict Resolution: If, How and When(link is external) that was published by the Center for Empathy in International Affairs in June 2016:

“Empathy is an essential tool to resolve conflict and to ensure the sustainability of peace…. 

To empathize accurately requires a lot of work and if practiced well, it almost invariably leads to an adjustment of our own assumptions. Yet, the willingness to question assumptions and beliefs is a quality that tends to be disparaged rather than valued in powerful institutions.

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Biases or preconceptions about others are resistant to change….

Empathy has a critical role in offsetting malign narratives, given the way that certain groups construct stories about others in order to portray them as evil. These adulterated stories, generated through folklore, popular culture, movies, books and more, can produce an environmentthat is conducive to highly destructive or immoral policies. Empathy can help challenge these stories, expose falsehoods and identify the resources that can be brought to bear to enable certain groups or societies to tell less harmful stories….

Targeted efforts are required to mitigate the bias against empathy, promote its professional recognition, and encourage greater willingness to scrutinize our own beliefs and assumptions….

There is strong case for promoting empathy in society as a whole, as a cultural attribute, and as a skill used by individuals, not only in negotiations but in many other spheres of human activity."

Now, let’s discuss some of Franklin Graham’s beliefs.

He believes or claims to believe the following:

Mark B. Baer, Esq. is a mediator, collaborative law practitioner, conflict resolution consultant, co-author of Putting Kids First in Divorce, and co-founder of Family Dynamics Assistance Center. He also regularly writes for the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.