On March 11, I hosted a Kentucky Kitchen Table in my hometown of Radcliff, Kentucky. My family was an immense help in inviting friends of theirs to this dinner who contributed to the diversity and discussions we had.
There were seven people who attended this dinner. First was Drew, who lives in Fort Knox, KY but is from Virginia. He is a sophomore in high school who will be attending the Gatton Academy in the fall, planning to study engineering or music. Next is Morgan, who lives in Elizabethtown, KY and has family roots from Panama and New Zealand. She is a sophomore and is thinking of studying music as well. Then there’s Heather, who lives in Elizabethtown and grew up on a small farm in Russellville, KY. She is a high school Spanish teacher. Then there’s Mike, who lives and was born in Elizabethtown, KY, and is a factory worker. Next is Maria, my wonderful mother who graciously prepared the dinner. Growing up with Italian roots, traditions and family time became a necessity at home. My mom wanted to cook an authentic Italian meal and show her culture and diversity to the dinner. This allowed me to learn more about her, my culture, and my ethnicity as well. She lives in Radcliff, KY, but was born in Brooklyn, NY and works as a para-educator in an elementary school. Next is my oldest sister Stephanie who also lives in Radcliff and was born in Brooklyn. She is a third-grade teacher in an elementary school. Lastly, there’s myself. I live in Radcliff but am from Brooklyn as well. I am a freshman studying music education, and I plan to obtain my master’s degree in music therapy.
The dinner went much smoothly than I imagined. Although I didn’t know the other members of the table, everyone was comfortable with each other and were impressed with the grandiose display of food that my mom prepared. This led to my asking of the first question, “did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up, and did you enjoy it?” The answer from everyone was unanimous as we talked about our experiences and appreciation for eating dinner daily around a table because we could relax and talk about our days with our loved ones. My mom elaborated on this question by referencing her childhood. She grew up in a primarily Italian Catholic community, so she could learn about other people’s cultures and backgrounds. She mentioned her father and how he was heavily involved in the soccer club in Brooklyn, so she learned about his friends and their backgrounds as well. Mike, who is also Italian, explained a personal story as well. This allows us to communicate better with each other and our neighbors, which is a central idea of my Honors 251 course.
The next question I asked was: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Everyone had insightful answers, but the main points that stood out to me from the dinner were needing a sense of community and working together to better the world we live in. Stephanie briefly discussed patriotism, freedom, and having a sense of community and order, which are all necessary in a stable society. Heather elaborated by expressing our need to love fellow-men and participating in fellow affairs with intelligence and heart, which are extremely essential in working together today. Morgan mentioned needing to be an active member in the community, helping to make the environment a better place and provide equal rights for all, and striving to better the world around us. I continued the discussion while referencing climate change readings we have discussed in class and how that is one of the many wicked problems that are alive. A large topic that stemmed from this question was the necessity of communication to solve problems. From this, I referenced Keith Melville’s “How We Talk Matters” and how important it is to listen to one another, especially towards the opposing side of an argument, so we can respect and learn from each other. Talking effectively is equal to communication, and communication is a necessity in being able to work together to solve problems, which is one of the central questions of our HON 251 class. It is better to talk maturely and listen to other people’s opinions rather than just yell and disregard one’s outlook on a topic. This allows conflicts to be resolved rationally and promote action.
While discussing citizenship, we talked about President Trump’s recent actions of cutting funding for arts and humanities programs and the passing of a new law for charter schools. Heather, Stephanie, and my mom, all working with children in schools for a living, were strongly affected by this issue. This led to my asking of what social issue is closest to everyone’s heart and why. Everyone has a different social issue that affected them personally, but most people at my dinner were highly concerned with the newly passed charter school law and anything regarding education. They all fear that it will put many educators out of work and children out of a good education. Talking about social issues led to talking about other problematic topics that occur in our world today. I elaborated and told them about other wicked problems we have discussed in class, as social issues are types of and examples of the wickedness that we see daily.
The last topic of the night ended our discussion with a lighter tone. I asked, “What do you think are the best things about our world today?” Everyone, myself included, spoke highly of the forward steps we are taking and the efforts people are making for the equality of all people and for everyone to live in a fair world. Drew elaborates by explaining that this is his favorite thing to see in the world because it shows that we, as a group of people, are slowly learning to respect everyone, regardless of beliefs and appearances. We are thankful to be living in a free nation that has rights, choices, diversity, and different ways to be educated about different people and lifestyles. Drew also appreciates that we are constantly thinking outside of the box and are full of ideas that will lead to change. This will change and shape the upcoming society and generations for years to come as we find ourselves and our values. We are slowly reinventing the world, and it shows that it will lead to a better society, but this will only be successful if we work together and communicate.
I have learned a lot by participating in this project. I drew the conclusion that although people come from different backgrounds, we are more alike than we think. We as members of a democracy have differing opinions, but we have common cares for our neighbors and the world. Having discussions about these types of topics allow us to work well together and familiarize ourselves with different groups and types of people. I learned about my own culture and heritage, in addition to different cultures and walks of life by talking to different people. This has made me a better individual personally and as a member of society. Talking to other people proves that there are plenty of good people in this world, and if we want to make a change, we need to act and work together to deliberate effectively. Hosting this dinner forced me to make connections between my HON 251 course and real-life situations. I saw all three central questions we focused on in the class come to life when talking with everyone. I was hesitant going into this dinner, but I am happy with the outcome of my discussion and how much I have learned in this course that will be useful in the future.