One thing I looked for in a group for this project was diversity. Our table consisted of five people representing Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, and Danville. Present at the table was Abbi, Ellery, Nancy, Scott, and Wil. Abbi is an accounting major, that’s very goal oriented. She is an extrovert and loves to volunteer in the community. Ellery is a biology major and identifies as a Republican. She is an extrovert, who spends most of her free time reading. She loves politics and would do anything for her community. Nancy has a PhD and is currently teaching Biology at Western. She identifies as a Democrat and devotes all of her free time to serving the needs of Bowling Green. I, Scott, am majoring in Biology as well with the hopes of becoming a doctor one day. I identify as a Republican and spend most of my free time at the Preston Center. Wil is majoring in Biology, and is a very studious person. He is more of an introvert and identifies as a Republican.
We focused on what citizenship meant outside of voting, paying taxes, and following laws. Nancy was quick to point out that this was a loaded question but provided a clear cut answer. She said that the most important thing one can do as a citizen is to serve his/her community. Nancy believes that a community is only as strong as its weakest link which requires unified communication. She said that it can be very difficult to communicate with others who are much different at times but it’s a great skill in life to have. She also said that things don’t always go as planned so you must be flexible. For example, some neighbors might promise to help with a neighborhood improvement project and then not show up. When I was listening to her talk, I was making connections to our class. For example, just by deliberating in class this semester I have come to embrace how different people think. You can pick things up and learn to value different perspectives by talking to others who are different than you.
We asked Nancy the question, “What advice would you give to people running for office in our country?” She was quite hesitant to answer at first because politics is such a hot topic. She eventually offered up the idea that we should treat one another as we would want to be treated. While that may sound elementary, it’s the biggest weakness our country currently possesses. During the presidential debates, the candidates focused more on insulting one another rather than their policies they would like to implement. This caused the citizens to get nasty with each other and the country has become split. John Dickinson once said, “united we stand, divided we fall.” This semester I have learned that productive deliberation is a good thing, but once a decision has been reached, the group should come together to support it. We are not always going to get what we want which is why it’s important to learn how to make the best out of every situation.
We then asked Nancy the question, “how do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?” She laughed, and went on to say if we had told her she was going to be teaching college kids one day she would have laughed in our faces. She went to medical school and received her PhD but felt that she could make a stronger impact teaching the upcoming generation. Nancy also said she wanted to make a difference in research. She wanted me to emphasize one thing when sharing our project with the class and that was don’t pick a job based on money. She could be making double what she is now but she feels as if this is her calling and will benefit her community more than anything. I could relate this to the class because we have talked about sacrificing ourselves sometimes for the greater good. Nancy is a perfect example of this and she isn’t struggling by any means. We asked Nancy if she had ever had a conversation with someone from a really different background. She stated that she hadn’t until she attended Western Kentucky University. Nancy told us not to take the diversity on this campus for granted because you can learn so much from others that you never would have gotten the opportunity to have before. Western truly does have international reach and the opportunity to understand what other’s lives are like in places other than the United States is quite unique. We take things for granted in our everyday lives that are major concerns in other countries. Sometimes we need to be brought back down to earth.
We asked Nancy, “What kind of person do you want to be?” She responded, “The person I am today.” When asked to clarify, she offered up examples of what her family does during the holiday season every year. Nancy’s family delivers food to families in the Bowling Green community for Thanksgiving as well as buy presents for children whose families can’t afford them. For one of her kids birthdays, they celebrated by doing a service project as a family. This says a lot because I don’t know too many kids who would choose to serve others on their birthday. Nancy’s giving attitude has rubbed off on others making Bowling Green a better place.
In conclusion, this project made me realize a lot about myself. I now realize that I could be donating more of my time and talent to the community instead of being selfish. I also see how the Bowling Green Community is much different than the Louisville Community. While the people in these cities may be two hours apart, they’re still Americans that should be coming together for the common good. After talking to Nancy, I got to see how we (citizens) can sometimes struggle working together to solve problems in the community. Nancy showed that with enough work, progress can be made. I will carry the lessons I’ve learned in this class for the rest of my life and will try to crack the codes to the wicked problems we have discussed.