Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Don't Fear Diversity - Embrace It!

 In her last commencement speech at City College on June 3, 2016 - and her last as First Lady - Michelle Obama talked about the power of diversity. Without mentioning him by name, she did allude to a certain person running for president who is not open to diversity - but her message was more powerful and meaningful than that.

I happen to be a white woman, but I grew up all over the country - from the South to the Northeast to the Midwest. I've had a few different accents and often been the only white person in the room. My significant other, my friends - since the time I was very small to now - come from all walks of life. It wasn't just the moving around, it was also my parents, thankfully, who taught me to have an open mind. I've also always had an interest in traveling, in learning about different cultures, in learning other languages. Why would I want everyone else to be or look like me? How boring!

A candidate in the current election continually makes racist comments and has a mind that is so narrow and so egotistical, I doubt anything could permeate it. But, it's my hope that the people who follow him will learn to see that it's so wrong and so limiting. Because, unless you are Native American (who we also don't have enough respect for), we all come from families that originally came from somewhere else. My grandfather was from England. That isn't that far back.

In an article in Elle, and from her speech, Michelle Obama said that "Every single day I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters - two beautiful, black young women - head off to school." How powerful is that? That we have come full circle from a horrible time in our history - one we should be so ashamed of - yet as far as we have come, we still have way too far to go. There is still so much hatred, racism, and uncalled for fear. It is just something I have never understood, and never want to.

The First Lady went on to say:
"But unfortunately, graduates, despite the lessons of our history and the truth of your experience here at City College, some folks out there today seem to have a very different perspective. They seem to view our diversity as a threat to be contained rather than as a resource to be tapped. They tell us to be afraid of those who are different, to be suspicious of those with whom we disagree. They act as if name-calling is an acceptable substitute for thoughtful debate, as if anger and intolerance should be our default state rather than the optimism and openness that have always been the engine of our progress.
But, graduates, I can tell you, as First Lady, I have had the privilege of traveling around the world and visiting dozens of different countries, and I have seen what happens when ideas like these take hold. I have seen how leaders who rule by intimidation – leaders who demonize and dehumanize entire groups of people–often do so because they have nothing else to offer. And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished; how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.
Graduates, that is not who we are. That is not what this country stands for. No, here in America, we don't let our differences tear us apart. Not here.  Because we know that our greatness comes when we appreciate each other's strengths, when we learn from each other, when we lean on each other. Because in this country, it's never been each person for themselves. No, we're all in this together. We always have been.
And here in America, we don't give in to our fears. We don't build up walls to keep people out because we know that our greatness has always depended on contributions from people who were born elsewhere but sought out this country and made it their home — from innovations like Google and eBay to inventions like the artificial heart, the telephone, even blue jeans; to beloved patriotic songs like  'God Bless America,' like national landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and, yes, the White House–both of which were designed by architects who were immigrants." 
Isn't it time we moved beyond such fear and hatred? Isn't it time we had a natural yearning to learn from different people and grow together as a country? I saw a sign in a store today that sums it up pretty well:

"Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will." (James Stephens)

Be curious. Be interested. Be open. Don't play into the fear of what you don't know - try to learn and try to understand that different cultures, different people, and different experiences can make life a lot more interesting in a land full of people from somewhere else. It isn't about walling people out or keeping things's about mixing it all together. Isn't that what makes America interesting? Don't fear diversity - embrace it!  

Graphic From

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Walking & Writing

There is something about walking that fuels the writing soul. It generates ideas and helps you come to conclusions with others. Living by a city lake, and running into people and their pets, only makes it better.

When I got home today, I took a long walk to Linden Hills. It's a bit of a stretch, but it's near the lake and there are people walking their dogs everywhere - from German Shepherds to small Shih Tzus. Dogs are always so happy when they're being walked, their tails wag in a constant rhythm with their paws, and subsequently the people walking them are usually happy...and pretty proud of their pets when you mention how cute they are.

With the sun shining, and summer finally arriving, everyone was especially friendly today. There were smiles and hellos with everyone I passed. I walked to the nearest mailbox and mailed a bill payment, then I crossed the street to find more of the wonderful Little Free Library boxes which are all over the city. This one was grouped with four other boxes, the most I've ever seen in a row, by the local hardware store. I ended up having a nice chat with a lady who had also stopped to leisurely look through each box and see the books they had to offer. We talked about what a wonderful idea it was, how we had both contributed books, and taken a couple home as well. The conversation turned to me also being a writer and she was quite interested in what I liked to read and what I wrote. We chatted about mutual favorites and each made some recommendations. I wish I would have gotten her name. I will hopefully run into her again sometime.

The last thing I did before heading home was to cross the street to Dunn Brothers Coffee and grab a bottle of water. A very friendly redhead sold me the water and I mentioned that it was always nice to meet a fellow redhead. "Tell people that you're a majestic unicorn," she said. I thought, cool, I'll do that. The best was when I told her that only 2% of the population were natural redheads and asked her if she was too. "Ya," she said, "I grew it myself." With that we high-fived, and I walked back out into the sun heading back home...with a big smile and my long, red ponytail held high.

 One of the many Little Free Libraries Around Town