Kentucky Kitchen Table Project

By John Mark

On Friday, November 11th, Erik and I hosted four members of the Warren County community for dinner at his family’s residence. Beyond my partner and me, we had four guests join us: Rick #1, Rick #2, Kathy and DeAnn. Rick #1 is a banker from Franklin, KY who now lives in Bowling Green. Rick #2 and Kathy are married and run a Christian Counseling Center together in the local area. They are from Minnesota and moved to Kentucky several years back. DeAnn is my mother. She is from Roanoke, VA originally and moved to Bowling Green when she was young. She now works as a physical therapist for a county school system.

Over the course of our dinner together, we discussed a wide variety of topics from the election, to the role of spirituality in the rebuilding/rekindling of relationships, and to the intercultural perceptions of current social issues here in the United States. One of the topics that stuck out to me the most was mostly between Rick #1 and me. Rick #1 identifies as a “Blue Dog” Democrat. Now, as I considered myself to be a conservative republican coming into the conversation, I was prepared to give my typical response to the common democratic points on the typical short-list of issues. But as it turned out, I agreed with a lot of what Rick #1 had to say about fiscal spending and the future of our economy. It threw me off initially that a democrat would actually call for a smaller governmental role in our economy, as an advocate of our capitalistic free-market economy.

That is what really got me thinking, “Am I really a conservative republican?” Now, the question itself is not the moral of the story, but merely the beginning of a mind-bending few days during which I questioned heavily my political alliances and preferences. I believe in a literal interpretation of the United States Constitution. Therefore, I am – at a glance – a republican. I also believe in a small government and free-market: republican. But, what I began to think about what how similar Rick’s political interpretations and social motives were to mine. This is when I knew I could scratch the “conservative” off the subheading of my political nametag. So now, I was in pursuit of understanding more about his stance before declaring my own.

Next we discussed gun control. Initially, we established that neither of us like gun violence nor the amount of Americans that die from being shot each year. As most democrats would claim, Rick #1 said we should eliminate firearms in the United States. Being a literal constitutionalist, this made me cringe. I realized that the divide in our opinions is fundamentally a difference in approach between us, not patriotism or moralism. He responds to gun violence by treating it at the source: removing guns. He is willing to relinquish his own right to bare arms in order to disable violent offenders from accessing firearms. I could not overlook or deny the soundness of his logic:

A. Drivers are licensed to get from point a to point b, so we should educate and license gun-owners. B. The more quickly we can curb the sociocultural connotations of gun-control the more quickly we will be able to reduce senseless gun violence in the U.S. C. People don’t embrace change with open arms. Therefore, we must move forward with the underst that sensible gun control will not happen overnight. We must inch our way towards progress with our sights on long-term prevention as opposed to short-term reaction in order to connect with the citizenship.

As a Kentuckian farm-boy who has grown up shooting guns regularly, it disheartened my sense of regionalistic pride to concede to such a progressive representative. In hindsight, his approach makes sense. I just don’t know how realistic these goals are, since the rights to bear arms just so happens to be articulated plainly as the second entry to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. It was at this confusing and slightly shameful crossroad that I remembered a key point of discussion from our time together this semester.

Wicked problem (n) – a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.

I realized that American rates of gun violence are a wicked problem. My stance that everyone should concealed-carry because they have the right to do so does not solve the problem; it reacts to the problem. That being said, the Blue Dog’s proposition may get us closer to solving the problem. The biggest barrier for me in supporting the rescinding of private gun rights is the black market’s long history of getting around the law as well as law enforcement. People have already begun 3-D printing firearms and the technology is improving exponentially each year. I know that there will be terrorist attacks and I would hate to play a part in disabling one of the victims from being able to defend themselves.

There is no way to define and design a sure-fire solution for a wicked problem such as gun control. What struck me was that in order to reach our ultimate goal of eliminating gun violence, we must start somewhere. According to our Intro. to Wicked Problems handout,   “There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a ‘solution’ to a wicked problem. You can
only see if the way you wish to address the problem works by trying it. Every ‘solution’ to a wicked problem is a ‘one-shot operation.’ Because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt matters.” Every attempt matters. If the goal is to eliminate gun violence, we must begin with a new perspective and make a new attempt because past attempts have not worked. The only way we will know if banning certain firearms will serve as an antagonist to large-scale attacks is to try it.

I am among the last of persons you would have expected to consider any legislation that voids American’s rights to bear arms, even if it is only the AR-15. Thanks to the Kentucky Kitchen Table project and the intellectual contributions of our guests, I now have new eyes in an array of political and recognize that we will not cross the bridge of eliminating gun violence without employing new strategies, whatever they may be.


The One With the Baked Spaghetti

By Elizabeth

unnamedMy Kentucky Kitchen Table was held at my house, and five other people joined me. Caroline goes to Murray State University full time and works two jobs to help her save for an upcoming trip to Spain (she is majoring in Spanish and can speak the language very well). She recently went on a trip to London. She is very open about her faith and religious beliefs and found a way to apply those beliefs to our conversations. Sarah, friends with Caroline, also goes to Murray State University. She is running for an office in her sorority and wants to be a teacher. David is a few years older than the rest of us and was born in Japan, but grew up in Alaska and moved to the continental U.S. in high school. He added a very interesting perspective to conversations we had about communities, citizenship, and social issues because of his diverse background. Kennedy just moved to the area from Illinois, and she was quite a bit older as well. She was the comic among the six of us and loved to delve into the minor differences between Kentuckians and Illinoisians that she has picked up once since her move. Hunter, my boyfriend, joined me as well. He is a sophomore at Western Kentucky University and hopes to be an anesthesiologist. He took a more straightforward approach to topics we discussed and easily tied our ideas together.

We began our dinner of homemade baked spaghetti by talking about what it meant to be a citizen or to have citizenship. David noted that what came to his mind was his dual citizenship in the U.S. and Japan. His citizenship gave him rights in his countries of citizenship, and he felt like he should take advantage of those rights in order to be an active citizen. Kennedy shared that she thought citizenship was also about the impact that you make personally in the lives of people in your community or nation. She is a social work major and said she hopes to make a difference and be a better citizen. This led us to talk about the obligations that we felt like we had in our country and if we thought our jobs served a greater purpose.

Kennedy currently does not work, but thinking of her future career as a social worker, she said it was really clear to her that her job served a greater purpose because she would be helping people who otherwise wouldn’t have been helped in that particular way. Hunter, also currently unemployed, mentioned that he felt obligated to help people and to become a doctor because that field of study is what he is good at. I asked him if he felt like other people are obligated to help others by doing what they are good at. He said he thought the world would be a better place if they were, but he felt obligated in that way because of his religious beliefs and understood that not everyone believed the same things that he did. Sarah is a tutor as MSU and helps a number of students with disabilities. She said she hopes she is making an impact on them and encouraging them to make impacts on others. Caroline said that working in a jewelry store allowed her to help people find pieces for very important moments in their lives. She shared a story of a woman coming in to find something for her adopted daughter because her biological father passed away. It was clearly a tricky situation, she said, but she found the perfect bracelet that came with a card explaining the bracelet’s meaning. A few days later, the woman came back in to thank Caroline and told her that her daughter teared up and promised to keep the sentimental piece forever.

Caroline’s anecdote challenged us to think about the little things, like a bracelet, and how we could replicate something that meaningful with our actions in order to solve problems. Hunter argued that small actions won’t fix big problems. He explained that our country needed to think big to solve problems, and that is why he supports our military so much. Kennedy expressed that small actions may not resolve war, but it can bring communities together. I supported her statement with a story of my own about a series of break-ins in my neighborhood. Several families came together to support the ones that had suffered damages or emotional distress. Several men volunteered to camp out to catch the individual, which resulted in the arrest of a man a few nights later.

Our discussion led us to share what were the social issues nearest to our hearts. Sarah shared that the education system has so many flaws and she wishes she could do something to change it because she will soon hate administering standardized tests when she becomes a teacher. She explained she believes standardized tests standardize students. David explained that veterans make up a significant portion of suicides and homeless people every year, which bothers him because his father is a veteran. Caroline told us about a project she did over homelessness that taught her that most homeless people aren’t homeless for any reason that they could have prevented. She went on further and eventually changed all of our perspectives on the issue of homelessness.

My Kentucky Kitchen Table experience reminded me of Paying for the Party because we all had different levels of wealth or different kinds of families, which led us to have different beliefs. We were in a way different from Paying for the Party: we did not let that get in our way of “deliberating” our ways of thinking. The Kentucky Kitchen Table project reminded me of the choreographer in the “Shipyard Project.” It was a medium to bring us together and share experiences, similar to the people sharing their past at the shipyard.

By the end of dinner, I learned that each and every person I was with wanted to move from one end of their own bridge to another. We all had different opinions on the best way to solve problems, and I wondered if our diverse problem-solving strategies were a good thing or not. Should we all work to make the world a better place however we see  fit, or should we discuss and be on the same page when tackling problems? My perspectives definitely changed on many topics, from whether or not a jewelry store is making a difference, or whether or not we should we blame homeless people for putting themselves in a homeless situation. My definition of citizenship did not change, but I was happy to hear other perspectives. Because we all shared our opinions  honestly and openly, we all agreed our perspectives changed even if our opinions did not.

Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Lily

When I moved to Bowling Green for school my old youth pastor texted me. He reminded me his ex-girlfriend Paige lives here if I ever need anything. She sent me a similar message. They dated when I was in eighth grade and she was a junior at WKU. When she was in town she worked with my youth group and stayed the night at my house in Lexington a few times. She was an amazing role model as she clearly loved the Lord with her whole heart and I was overjoyed to have the chance to reconnect with her. When the Kentucky Kitchen Table project was assigned I knew I did not want to go home nor do the project with my friend group and a class mate’s. So, I opted for the host home option but when I found out host homes were sparse I remembered Paige. Before Paige could confirm dinner plans two girls from the other class, Lexi and Merritt, were assigned to the kitchen table I was supposed to be providing. Paige explained that while it would be hard to set up a dinner she may be able to work something out with her friend Jessie. By the time we finally had a date set Lexi decided to do the project at home.
Merritt and I arrived in the neighborhood at about the same time. We met for the first time outside searching for Jessie’s house. Paige welcomed us in and explained the situation to Merritt; she, her son Bo, her husband Eric, Jessie, Jessie’s daughter Lucy, and Jessie’s husband Joel would all be moving to Turkey within the year so they were staying together while Eric and Joel were in Turkey at a training. Paige was simultaneously caring for her baby boy, Jessie’s baby girl, and cooking dinner. Jessie was out taking a meal to some international friends of hers. We offered and brought dessert and while she was very appreciative Paige explained that they have guests over so often they were drowning in food to offer us instead. She and Jessie suggested we take our dessert and share it with people on campus as an outreach to build community.

We sat down and began getting to know each other before we discussed anything related to the course. Paige is great with teenagers and people in general so although she is in a completely different stage of life than us our conversation was fluid. We took turns explaining different parts of our lives. Merritt talked about her upbringing with two brothers and two loving while protective parents. She went to an all-girls Catholic high school in Louisville. She is now participating in Greek life just like her mother and father were when they were in college. She also mentioned her family’s fondness of sports. Paige talked about her hometown only thirty minutes away from Bowling Green. She talked about how she met my old youth pastor and now her marriage to Eric. All the while being interrupted by babies, cooking and eventually Jessie returning home. Jessie talked about her job on campus at WKU where she and her husband are leaders at the Baptist Student Ministry. She related her work to Merritt’s sorority involvement and asked if Merritt had heard of a famous speaker. The woman used to find her identity in her sorority but once she graduated she did not know what to do. She ended up finding the Lord and speaking at sororities across the United states. Jessie talked about her impact on her after listening and her potential impact on so many more people.
When they were both home and sitting at the table they started explaining their impending move to Turkey. They will start working as missionaries for the International Mission Board with their families. They talked about short mission trips to Turkey they had each taken years prior. There was a specific unreached people group they wanted to reach-out to but they were going to have to enter the country and live in Istanbul for a while before they could. Their plan is to live in Istanbul learning Turkish for three years until it would make more sense to move to the part of Turkey they want to reach. At that point they would have to begin learning another new language, that of the Zazas. It was incredible to hear their long-term mind-set. The two had lived together before and were in it for the long-haul planning to live together again in Turkey. The two shared how they met at a church that outreaches to the housing projects in Bowling Green and had lived together before. God was working in their lives even then. Paige and her husband knew the neighborhood they wanted to live in and there was only one home available. When Jessie got married a few months later she and her husband wanted to live in the same neighborhood but no houses were available. The house was too big for the young couple but it worked out perfectly so Jessie and her husband could sublease with Paige and her husband.
Afterward, we began discussing what it means to be a citizen. Jessie talked about how she had never really considered it before. She said she did not value her citizenship as much as she should especially because in the United States we are awarded many more rights than other countries offer. Specifically as a woman she spoke of being very grateful for the society and country we live in. Paige agreed and they both talked about their citizenship in heaven. I was very interested in their perspective since they will soon be changing their citizenship. But they explained their earthly citizenship to no matter which country means little in comparison to their home in God’s house. They both are very thankful for their citizenship though. They feel a responsibility to support their governments and fellow citizens as Americans and as Christians. Merritt talked about how she had also never really considered her citizenship before this course. She explained that now that she can vote she is beginning to think about and learn more about government and how she can contribute to it. At dinner I was reminded of poverty and service, empathy, and learning from others weeks as a lot of our conversation was about how to live well with others.
When 7 o’clock rolled around so did the children’s bed time. We were welcomed back anytime and we all departed smiling and grateful.
I was very grateful to have learned from each of the beautiful people I had dinner with. I learned hospitality and outreach, a care for the people around me and a care for people around the world. I learned immediate love and long-term appreciation for people, respect for parents and affection for siblings and friends. I learned gentle peace and ambition, duty and perspective. I am very thankful for our dinner and our conversation. I am thankful for the chance to learn and connect with a peer I might never have met as well as citizens of Bowling Green in a different stage of life. I was really blessed by this experience and hope to continue my relationships with each of these ladies.


Making Home in a Dorm: a Kentucky Kitchen Table Story

By Baylee

When I was first introduced to this project, I was apprehensive. I thought “how in the world am I going to pull this off?” However, I’ve always been a little creative, and overall I’d say our Kentucky Kitchen Table was one of the most inventive things I’ve ever contributed to.

For starters, my KKT was original in that I teamed up with my friends Katy and Katelyn to attempt a non-cafeteria, non-fast food, wholesome dinner at Western Kentucky University. I’d have to say that the preparation for Kentucky Kitchen Table was one of my favorite parts. We experienced different forms of diversity through the entire project, even from the start when we planned our components around one of our guest’s vegan diet, which I had never done before (vegan food is actually not bad). Before starting the project, I was closely acquainted to both Katy and Katelyn, but through the grocery shopping and frantic cooking I became closer with both girls as I learned more about their different personalities and backgrounds (even Katy’s love of “You’re so Vain” by Carly Simon). First, we had some challenges because of our group decision to stay on campus. We needed a kitchen table! And a kitchen! Luckily, the organization Christian Student Fellowship, which Katy and I are involved in, was kind enough to let us borrow their table in their house where they hold non-denominational worship Tuesday and Sunday nights for students. For our kitchen, we utilized the kitchen in Minton Hall, where we all live here on campus. The kitchen had to be the most difficult obstacle, because it is smaller than most walk-in closets. However, we beat the heat coming from the stove and managed to produce a wonderful meal together. We decided on pasta with a choice of marinara or alfredo sauce. To complement our main dish, we included a salad and garlic bread. We ended the meal with delicious brownies that Katelyn made.

One of the premier parts of our dinner were the guests. We each invited a few friends, which totaled to eight people. I invited my friend Seth, Katy brought Theresa and Tucker, and Katelyn brought Anne and Jill. All of our attendants were students at WKU, with varying majors and reasons for coming to Bowling Green. Although the group lacked apparent diversity, we were all from various upbringings and had different, unique personality traits. One of the most unique, however, was our guest Yujen. Better known on campus as “Loud Asian”, Yujen joined our table halfway through dinner when he heard us from upstairs at the Christian Student Fellowship house. Although his presence was brief, because he enjoyed our dorm-made pasta so much that he polished his plate in less than fifteen minutes, we enjoyed hearing about his passion for martial arts and the state of California. Yujen added additional diversity to our group, as well as a conversation burst upon his exit. After he departed, our group began to discuss our different views of Yujen’s frequent presence on campus, as well as some of his antics which he is locally famous for.

Yujen was not the only topic of discussion at our table. Initially, conversation was one of my main concerns for our group. However, from the start of our dinner my previous assumptions that things would be awkward were blown away with jokes and opinions frequenting the table. I particularly enjoyed this, because I like to be very social and liked learning about our guest’s unique characteristics. For example, I listened while Seth shared the reasons for getting a large chest tattoo, and Theresa’s passion for the clarinet, which she plays in the Big Red Marching Band. I also thought it was interesting hearing about everyone’s hometowns. Every guest at our table originated from Kentucky, with the exception of Katelyn and myself, who call Tennessee home. Tucker and Anne are both from Frankfort, and Seth and Theresa went to the same high school. Although these guests shared a few aspects of the places they reside, they had very different opinions when asked about some of the details like neighbors and favorite things about their hometown. As we got into other details of our lives, including both campus and back home, I began to gain an appreciation for the prevalent diversity appearing at our table. This began to clear things up for me as to why we did this project in Honors Citizen and Self. I realized that openly sharing our different opinions and interests which made us unique in a comfortable, welcoming environment simultaneously united us as we all were desperate to find out more about one another.

As we began to shift to less superficial topics, Katy, Katelyn, and I presented our required question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”. Seth, being the light-hearted guy he is, responded with a firm “Murica” which we all responded to with laughs and giggles. However, after we calmed our enjoyment, Anne offered an excellent response which received approving nods in agreement from the rest of our table. She responded to our question by sharing that to her, being a citizen means being able to freely express opinions and views openly, thus utilizing the freedoms and rights we are granted as citizens and unifying us under these rights. Anne’s response resonated with me, and made the meaning and relevance of Kentucky’s Kitchen Table all the more apparent to me. I realized that despite our guest’s differences, not all in appearance, we were able to unite under the fact that we were free to share our various backgrounds and thoughts at a simple dinner.

After our plates were clean and our bellies full, Katy, Katelyn, and I said goodbye to Jill, Anne, Theresa, Seth, and Tucker. As we washed up the dishes and packed what few leftovers we had, we reflected on our dinner and agreed that this project was an excellent example of healthy deliberation and how our guest were willing to contribute to making a great dinner, just as we as citizens strive to contribute to making a better world.


Kentucky’s Kitchen Table Project

By Coreyimg_4079

I will start off by saying that I greatly enjoyed this Kentucky Kitchen Table project. It allowed me to connect with some local people in my community and share some of our life experiences. I had dinner with eight people from various backgrounds. Luke is a man from Indiana who I was introduced to through a friend for this project. He is a mechanical engineering major. He is a funny guy, who has a very similar sense of humor to mine. We got along well from the beginning, and he was a great addition to the kitchen table. He wanted to be described as a kid from a small town who has never had anything given to him. Everything he has came from his own hard work. For the required question concerning what citizenship means, Luke said that citizenship means that you get out and participate in society. You work hard every single day, and try your best to make your dreams come true. You make money and spend money, and that’s how society works.

Kayla is a graduate from WKU, and has a degree in civil engineering. She is my sister, and she is an academically brilliant student graduating with an almost perfect GPA and Honors. She now has a full time job in civil engineering. Kayla wanted to be described as not your typical girl. She works in what some consider a man’s field, and has never been interested in most of the “girly” things. When I asked Kayla what citizenship meant to her, she had a similar answer to Luke saying that you must participate in society. She believes that citizenship means treating everyone with respect.

Mallory is my girlfriend, but she comes from a very different background than me, which provided even more diversity to the table. She also attends WKU and is majoring in Civil Engineering. She comes from the “cross town rival” independent school and was raised up in a more subdivided area. Citizenship means accepting everyone as they are to Mallory. She says that even if you do not agree with the way someone thinks or feels you should still accept them as they are.

Kiersten is my little sister and she was without a doubt the most interesting character at the kitchen table. She is one of the sassiest little girls I have ever known, and extremely smart. Whenever I asked Kiersten how she wanted to be described, she said she wanted to be described as a princess which is not in the least bit surprising.

Elaine comes from a background of only having enough to make ends meet. All through her life she has not had a surplus of money so she is very economically wise and very responsible. When I asked her about what citizenship means to her she had a very simple answer. She said that being a citizen means to contribute to society and make sure that you treat everyone with an equal amount of respect because everyone is made equal in God’s eyes.

Marietta is an elderly woman who has not had it easy from what I can gather. Recently her husband of many years passed away due to an ongoing illness. She said that one of her sons was in prison, and that another had a long fight with drug addiction that he recently conquered. The easiest word that I can find to describe this woman is tough, because she has had a lot of tough times in her life and she has always come through it. Marietta said that citizenship means loving this country and fighting for what you believe in.

The final guest I had at my kitchen table was a man named Kevin who was told a few years ago that he would never walk again. He was involved in a horrible four-wheeler accident that broke several of his vertebrae along with other injuries. He was rushed to UK hospital where he underwent immediate surgery, and at the conclusion of the surgery he was told he would never walk again. Yet, here he was walking into my house to have dinner. Kevin wanted to be described as a fighter because he said it seemed like he was always the under dog. When I asked Kevin what he thought citizenship meant, he said that citizenship meant trying your best to help others out around you.

Throughout the dinner we had a lot of small talk conversations about how everyone was doing and we all shared a little background about ourselves to begin with. Then, since I had been hunting the morning of the kitchen table project, I was asked if I had gotten a deer yet, and we spent a few minutes exchanging our best deer hunting stories with one another. One of the most well responded to questions I asked was: “Did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up?” This question seemed to almost be universally answered as a yes except for Luke. Luke said that his dad worked a lot as he was growing up, and that he didn’t really get to spend time just sitting down and eating dinner with his family. Both Kevin and Elaine responded yes to this question. They thought that it was a normal thing for a family to sit down at the dinner table and have a home-cooked dinner together almost every single night. It was something that they had done ever since they could remember, and couldn’t imagine what life would’ve been without that. Elaine said she felt that this dinner together made the family stronger, and made them get along better.

I honestly learned a lot at this short dinner filled full of conversation and good food. It can really open your eyes to the changing generations, and the differing views between every person no matter how similar they are. This reminds me very strongly of the idea of deliberation and the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine. As I sat at the kitchen table, I was very aware of the differing view points surrounding the table, yet we could all talk about our beliefs and views without offending anyone. That is the goal of deliberation and democracy is to understand everyone’s views and come together to form a better society. Finally, it reminded me of the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine because of the fact that everyone at the table mentioned at some point or another that no matter the skin color or views or ideas we all need to accept one another regardless of the circumstances, and that is very important.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this Kentucky Kitchen Table Project, and would suggest it to anyone. It opens your eyes to the way generations are changing, and how everyone has differing view points no matter if you’re from the same state, city, or household. It was a great experience and I’m glad I was able to participate.

Payton’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

Friendsgiving was the first thought I had when I learned about this assignment. All throughout high school my friends and I would have dinner together during Thanksgiving Break and sit around talking. We looked forward to it every year; sadly, we were not all going to be able to get back together this year due to some of us traveling. However, Friendsgiving was not lost. I was invited to have a Friendsgiving by one of the older members in my sorority, Kelcie, to come to her apartment and I was super excited!

My favorite part about getting together to eat at an actual table is the home-cooked meal that comes with it. There were nine people who were invited (including me) and we all were to bring food. I knew what I was going to bring immediately— mac and cheese! It is one of my absolute favorite foods. Also on the menu were rolls, mashed potatoes, green beans, chicken, dressing, and many different casseroles. And don’t think I forgot about the dessert! We had enough pies to feed a small army!

When I arrived at the apartment I was immediately greeted by Kelcie when I walked in the door. She introduced me to the other girls who lived in the apartment with her: Abby, Kristen, and Morgan. One of Kelcie’s friends, Sydney, also came by for dinner. After her came the three girls from my sorority: Abbi, Anna, and Loretta. I knew this was going to make for an interesting table conversation because we all have different personalities.

I’ll start by giving a little background information on everyone. Sydney, Loretta, Kelcie, Anna, and myself are all from Louisville. Abbi grew up in Lexington, Morgan is from Paducah, and both Abby and Kristen are from Frankfort. Sydney is not a very talkative person, but if you ask her why she prefers not to talk so much she’ll respond by saying that she just likes to listen to what other people have to say. Loretta wants to be described as a humorous, sarcastic human being (as you can tell by her face in the picture). Kelcie is a very loud and, as she likes to say, energetic person. Morgan and Anna remind me of each other in the sense that they both are motherly figures. Abbi preferred that I referred to her as a “fun-loving” kind of girl. Kristen wanted to be described as having a bright personality and Abby is also a bit shy, but she warmed up towards the middle of the dinner. Even though we were all girls, we came from different parts of Kentucky, from different social classes, and from different home lives.

So as we all sat around the table with our plates stacked with the food, I said that we needed to take a group picture. While the majority of us knew we were going to smile normally, of course I was asked if we “had to” smile. I responded that they could make any face that they wanted. So I was left with Loretta “mean-mugging”, Morgan throwing up a peace sign, and Kelcie in the middle of eating a forkful of food. Abbi wasn’t pictured because she was actually taking the picture.

I decided to break the ice with the table since I still didn’t know all of the girls. We started with the question, “Did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up? Did you like that? Why or why not?” We were from all different places in Kentucky so I thought that it would provide for a lot of different answers and reasons.

I thought that Sydney’s answer really coincided with her personality. She had meals around the table growing up and she liked it because it was a way to see how the rest of her family members’ days were going. She is the kind of person who likes to hear what other people have to say and this goes along with wanting to hear how her family’s day went. I related this to the part of the class about deliberative arguments. If she were to participate in one, she would be able to listen to everyone’s point of view before she would speak and give hers. She is a good example of how we can live better together because she is more likely to listen to someone than to argue with them and make the situation worse.

Abby’s answer was not similar to Sydney’s. Abby came from a low-income household. Both of her parents worked long hours and it was a fend-for-yourself situation in her house when it came to dinner. She said that it would have been nice to have sit down dinners every night or at least three or four times a night. The only time that her family would have a sit down dinner was on holidays or once a month. I was wondering if this had something to do with her shy personality in which she didn’t talk very much.

When it came to the question “what does citizenship mean to you?” I received a range of answers. Anna, one of the motherly figures in the group, said that she views citizenship as helping others around you and making sure that your fellow citizens are doing just as well as your family members. Come to find out, Anna volunteered at a soup kitchen in the rough part of Louisville. She would make dinner for the children living there that otherwise would not get a dinner and then afterwards would help them finish their homework. To her, volunteering to help these children was her way of making sure that they were treated (as close as they could be) like her family. Kelcie’s answer took more of a patriotic perspective; she thinks that citizenship is maintaining the virtues that our country values, and not asking what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our county. When it came down to Loretta, she added a little humor to the table and responded with, and I quote, “Citizenship means doing exactly what Queen Loretta wants, no matter what.” And with that, the table erupted in laughter.

Obviously, Loretta’s answer is the opposite of what citizenship is. However, I thought it was cool how no one at the table (except for Abbi and myself) had taken this Citizen and Self class, and they had an idea of what citizenship was besides the basic voting, paying taxes, and following laws answer. Each one of these women had a different meaning to them; even though we all had different opinions, we accepted what each other thought. I think that was the best part about this assignment because it tied together what this class is all about. I didn’t even know everyone as we sat around this kitchen table. I didn’t have to feel obligated to accept what everyone said just because we were friends— because we weren’t all friends. But the fact that we all accepted each other’s opinions, beliefs, and stories is how democracy should be.

This assignment has led me to actually want to eat around a kitchen table more often. At first, I wasn’t sure how a kitchen table dinner could be any different from just eating at a table in DSU. However, know I can understand and appreciate the intimacy and a certain level of quietness that the kitchen table brings. I look forward to appreciating many more kitchen table dinners in my future.

IMG_1101.JPGFrom left to right: Sydney, Loretta, Kristen, Abby, Morgan, Kelcie, Anna, Payton (me)

Not pictured: Abbi

A Kentucky Kitchen Table in Mount Hermon

By Mikayla

My Kentucky Kitchen table was hosted at my parent’s house in Mount Hermon, KY. Those attending were my father, my mother, my sister, John, and myself. My father, Craig, has lived in Mount Hermon his entire life. He is a third-generation farmer, a volunteer firefighter, and a carpenter. My mother, Christy, is originally from Indianapolis and moved here with her family while she was a child. She lived in Vernon, KY until she and my father married in 1992. She is the center coordinator at the Barren County Health Department. My sister, Maddie, is a senior in high school. She serves as secretary in her high school’s FFA chapter and plans to pursue a degree in agriculture at WKU. John is from a small area called Hestand, KY. He works in carpentry with my dad and this was his first time meeting the rest of our family. My mom, sister, and I decided to cook the entire meal consisting of roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and gravy. John provided the sweet tea for the meal.

Although this group of people did not seem very diverse, we discovered diversity in our experiences, regions, political identities, and religious identities. My family is a stable, two-parent household while we learned that John comes from a family with divorced parents. His parents separated as he was beginning high school in 2007, his father passed away just last year, his older brother joined the air force and now lives in North Dakota, and he has some contact with his mother who lives in northern Kentucky. Another difference noted during our conversation was that we were used to homecooked meals gathered around the kitchen table every night while both of John’s parents seldom cooked. We were also diverse in the regions we originated from, with my mother most notably originating from Indiana, while the rest of us originate from different, small, rural neighborhoods in Kentucky. We also differed in our political identities. John identifies as a democrat while my family and myself identify as republican. This difference brought a unique conversation to the table as we discussed why everyone identified as they did. John believed more in the democratic platform than the republican platform, even though he was still on the fence regarding abortion because of his religious beliefs while my family and I were extremely conservative. This prompted us to talk about the results of the recent election and how we felt about the president-elect. John was quick to say that he did not vote for Trump, but was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as his post-election speeches and mannerisms were more acceptable as opposed to his pre-election actions. He also clarified that he was by no means a Hillary Clinton fan either, but decided to vote for her as he believed that she was more qualified than Trump because of her experience. My family and I admitted to being Trump supporters and were glad when we received the news that he had won. All of us talked about the shock that we all had when Trump won the election, as none of us believed that he would win. Additionally, we were different in relation to our religious beliefs. Although we all were in the broad spectrum that is Christianity, John identifies with the Baptist denomination while my family and I identify as Church of Christ. This prompted a discussion that identified some differences between the two: primarily, the “once saved, always saved” concept and the idea of being saved before baptism. Other than these two differences, we noted that they were very similar in their other teachings.

After these initial, introductory conversations ended, I began to prompt with discussion-based questions. First, the question, “What does citizenship mean to you?” was asked. After initial silence, John began the conversation and stated that he believed an important component of citizenship was being understanding and respectful of others. He continuously mentioned that, although we may come from entirely different backgrounds and have different morals/beliefs, we must be respectful of everyone’s right to think and act differently and be both understanding and welcoming of those differences. We all agreed and my dad continued by stating that he also believes providing helping hands to those around you was an important function of citizenship. He related this to firefighting: he volunteers his time to help others in the community and explains that there are multiple ways to do this, such as helping your neighbors landscape or something as simple as a phone call to see how someone is doing. The next prompted question was “What is the thing you love most about living where you do?”. My sister jumped in by sharing that she loved how close-knit our little community was. If someone was sick, then we all knew about it and contributed in whatever way we could. If someone was faced with a disaster, then everyone contributed. Living in such a small, close-knit community made it seem more like a large family. My mom also mentioned that she never had to worry about the neighbors or having too much traffic around the house, especially while we were growing up. If she and dad were both at work, then she could easily find a babysitter with a neighbor. She also mentioned that she never worried about us wandering around alone because she knew every neighbor and the traffic around the area was minimal.

The conversation throughout the entire dinner flowed very smoothly between these multiple topics as we were all very open to the discussion, even during touchy subjects like politics and religion, and required very minimal “conversation starter” questions. Thus, I learned that diversity exists even when you least expect it to and I learned key components of citizenship and democracy. We discussed various topics evenly and openly, regardless of our differing backgrounds and identities, much like how a true democracy should function. Our conversations more accurately represented a proper deliberation, in the sense that we each spoke of our differences, compared them, and then brought our ideas and beliefs together once everyone had spoken. All in all, it was a very beneficial dinner that resulted in new ideas of citizenship as it relates to democracy and a better understanding of how experience is epistemologically significant.