For the Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I was grouped with Luke, Daniel, and Ethan. We had a wonderful dinner with Emily, a former Citizen and Self student and peer mentor who has graduated from the Honors College and with a Masters of Religion at WKU and is headed on to graduate school. We decided to potluck ingredients for tacos, and make the actual dinner together, to help cut down on having to spend extra time prepping food, but also to have some casual conversation and get to know each other a little before the actual dinner. Ethan is a broadcasting major from Tennessee. He works at the TV station on campus and in his spare time enjoys Netflix and hanging out with friends. Daniel is a nursing major from Louisville who enjoys theater, Netflix, reading, and volleyball in his spare time. Luke is a Biology/ pre-vet major from Harrodsburg, Kentucky. He is a Sigma Chi, and enjoys sports, reading and Netflix. We had an awesome conversation which we decided to begin with our question, “What does it mean to be a citizen?” From there we went on to talk about a more personal aspect of citizenship, and what that looks like in varying identities. We talked about how we identify as individuals, and what types of things truly define us. Emily spoke a lot about personal reflection, and encouraged us to really think about what specific communities we identify ourselves in, and whether we are putting one hundred percent of ourselves into these communities. I do not think any of us left without seriously contemplating our lives as we did. The conversation was very high level, respectful, and meaningful.
Specifically, each of us had a slightly varying view of what citizenship meant to us. But overall the underlying principles were the same. Be active. Be involved. Help others. Do what you can. We all had an outlook of citizenship as being part of a group or community and giving your best to help and improve that community. We discussed how this is also an inward commitment. We must choose what community, or communities we want to be defined by, and then give one hundred percent in order to be effective citizens. Those communities are not solely our towns, states, country, etc. but also our families, social networks, workplaces, and more. We agreed there are no real set requirements for being an “effective citizen,” but that it is more about giving what you can, and giving one hundred percent in everything. In order to make our communities what we would like to see, we must be actively involved and engaged in the activities of that community. We also spoke briefly of these things in a religious context. With varying religious backgrounds, (Ethan and I were raised Baptist, Danial Catholic, and Luke Methodist) we all agreed that this was a specifically good example of our community identities and how we must realize and ultimately choose which ones take precedence.
I think our conversation relates best to our class reading on the elephant and rider from Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind. In fact, we discussed this briefly. This is a good example of determining which is controlling which. Do we control our identities within a community, or do those identities control us? It is also a good comparison of how we function and work within our communities as active and involved citizens.