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Part of the Einstein exhibition.

Einstein was uncomfortable with his fame. He told one biographer, "In the past it never occurred to me that every casual remark of mine would be snatched up and recorded. Otherwise I would have crept further into my shell." But Einstein recognized that his fame made it possible for him to serve as a powerful advocate for his deeply held political beliefs. A passionate humanitarian, he emerged from his shell to argue for the protection of human rights around the world.

Many of Einstein's political ideas seemed simple: prevent war through cooperation among nations, treat everyone equally. But he knew that "the problem is to get people to act" on these ideas. He supported the creation of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East but stressed the need for cooperation between Jews and Arabs. He worried that the United Nations did not have the authority to prevent war. He emphasized the need to safeguard civil rights and freedom of expression.

Einstein's views on other issues, including socialism, McCarthyism, and racism, were controversial—so controversial, in fact, that the U.S. government considered him a possible Communist spy. Yet Einstein never backed down from his commitment to the principles of freedom and justice. "We have to do the best we can," he remarked. "This is our sacred responsibility."