On April 11, 2016, I,along with two other classmates from my Citizen and Self class, attended a dinner hosted by guests named Molly and David. My classmates names were Andrew and Stephanie. Molly and David both served as English professors at WKU. Molly is currently not teaching, while David is on sabbatical as he is currently writing a book. Andrew attended an academy in Louisville where he spent kindergarten through senior year of high school with the same general group of students. Stephanie is from Bowling Green and originally attended a small college in Florida first semester before returning to Bowling Green and attending WKU. All three of us are biology majors.
Molly and David were generous to provide the entire meal to us. It consisted of a salad, then a main entree of pasta with lentils, followed by dessert consisting of strawberries and brownies. Water and tea were served as well. Molly and David were extremely generous hosts, making sure we did not leave their house without a full stomach. After we arrived, we introduced ourselves and discussed the purpose of this project. Molly and David were fascinated by the concept of such a seemingly simple assignment of having dinner with strangers and then writing about it. However, as soon as we sat down for our meal, we began to discuss deeper topics and they began to understand the concept of the Kentucky Kitchen Table.
Our initial conversations were very relaxed as we talked about ourselves and compared the college experiences of our hosts with our own. Molly and David had very interesting stories about how much education has changed since the time they attended college. Following this, we discussed the idea of citizenship and what it meant to them. David said that citizenship means to be fully informed about issues in society and have an understanding about why they exist. Molly echoed such sentiment and added that if a citizen were to be active in the community and involved in large-scale decisions such as presidential elections, then being as educated as possible about heated topics in today’s society was necessary to truly make the best decision possible. Their answer was very similar to what we discussed in class about how it is our responsibility to be informed about issues in our communities in order to actively deal with them. They also agreed that citizenship encompasses not only rights and privileges we possess, but also responsibilities, such as being educated about issues within the community, that we cannot take for granted if we are to coexist successfully with others who have different opinions.
The more we conversed with Molly and David, the more I sensed the positivity of their personalities. For example, when they were asked about the best things about our world today, they talked about the kindness of people and how it made them feel good witnessing even the smallest acts of kindness. Despite all of the negative things that are happening in society, they both felt that it was easy to take away positives from people’s kindness because it reflects the idea that the many good acts of individuals trump the mistakes of others that create problems in society. Another sense of positivity I noticed in them was when we asked them what they loved most about living in Bowling Green. Both Molly and David were originally from bigger cities and attended college at the University of Indiana in Bloomington where they met. However, they both loved Bowling Green because of its simplicity as a small rural city that still has everything they want. Molly talked about how she felt closer to people in Bowling Green than in larger cities because it was easier to connect with people here due to the small-city setting allowing more people to know one another and be more comfortable around each other as a result.
An interesting aspect of the conversation was when we discussed the issue of gun control. David discussed how he was opposed to owning firearms in house and was very scared when the previous owner of his house left one of her guns in his closet when she moved out. He explained how he was different than his surrounding neighbors in that respect as they were much older than he is and possess multiple firearms while he refuses to own one. We also discussed whether religious identity should affect treatment of others and how it affected citizenship. While they agreed that religious values can affect how you view certain social issues, they were very adamant about how they do not believe that religious affiliation should affect the way we treat others. Both Molly and David are in their mid-40s, putting them an entire generation ahead of us. Despite this, they still hold a mindset similar to many college students’ on a number of issues.
Overall, the experience of this project was something I enjoyed. At first, I thought that I would be awkward and hard to talk to among such a diverse group of people, but that proved to be false. While my classmates and I were science majors and our hosts were English professors, I found that we still connected on a lot of things and that our differences in career interests did not alter our ideas of citizenship. Based on David and Molly’s responses to our questions, they related most to Martha Nussbaum’s “Citizens of the World” reading. Nussbaum emphasized the importance of engaged education and global citizenship to coexist successfully. Our hosts agreed and believed that being informed about a topic was a key to living in a successful community, a central idea of this Citizen and Self course.