A Diverse Table and an interesting Meal

I did my Kentucky Kitchen Table at my home in Oakland, Kentucky. I invited my girlfriend Halee (Third from the left), Chase (second from right) who I met on the bus one day on my way to class about a week prior, his grandmother Ramona (second from left), and one of Halee’s teachers at Ross, Mendy (right). Halee insisted on making the whole meal (and since she scares me a little bit I let her).

The people around this table, with the exception of Halee and me, had very little in common. Chase is a first generation college student from Washington who came to WKU for a Photo Journalism degree. He is from a very poor family in one of the rougher neighborhoods in Seattle. His political leanings are more liberal than conservative and he considers himself to be a democrat. His grandmother, Ramona, was in town to visit him (which is why I chose the date to have the meal). She is originally from Minnesota, but moved to Washington for her job back in 1982. She is a member of the LGBT community and recently got married to a woman named Emily. She is more liberal than conservative but does not claim to belong to a political party.

Halee is from a middle class family and went to the same high school I did. She is politically conservative but has never really given much thought to a political party. She went to higher education at Ross Medical where she received a certificate in medical billing (it has a longer name but I couldn’t remember that for the life of me). Her teacher, Mendy, is also from Bowling Green. She has been teaching at Ross for 7 years. She has a husband and three kids. She is politically conservative and is a member of the Republican Party.

The conversation started with small talk (the weather, sports, etc.) There was no feeling of awkwardness that I could tell. Everyone seemed very comfortable. So when the conversation died down a bit, I asked “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Surprisingly to me, the answers were very much the same. Everyone agreed that to be a citizen was to be active in the community in some form or fashion. Whether that be to donate to local charities or to be active with local causes.

I then asked “What is the ideal society to them?” This got some different responses. To Chase, it is a place where the arts are well funded and encouraged. He wants a world where following a passion or hobby could make you just as successful as following jobs for money. He says that an art program would really help to inspire people in lower classes to become something more. Ramona said much the same thing but she specified more tolerance of other cultures. She said that she is tired of people being marginalized because of their race, culture, religion, etc. My ideal place is where everyone’s identity was American first, then religion, race, identity, etc. I feel that if everyone agreed that they were American first, much of the violence in this country would decrease.

After this question we just ate and talked about random things for a while. I learned that Chase is a Patriots fan but Ramona is an Eagles fan. They said that at the super bowl they made bets and the loser had to buy the other dinner. After some more small talk, much of it hilarious, I asked “What advice would you give to presidential candidates?” Mendy said that she would tell a candidate to base his policies on the people he is representing even if it conflicts with his own political beliefs. This was the first question to have differing opinions. Chase said that it is important for candidates to follow their own beliefs because if they didn’t “Then what they do will be fake.” He believes that people should elect a candidate based on the candidate’s belief system and to do otherwise was dangerous. Halee and I agreed with Mendy. Ramona was more interested in a candidate that was transparent with their personal lives. We all agreed on this to a point, but I said that his or her personal life should not be a problem unless it conflicts with their political lives. For example, I don’t think it would matter if a candidate was unfaithful to his or her spouse as long as they remain a good leader. Halee disagreed saying that we should elect not only good leaders, but morally good people as well.

I tried to ask “Does your religious or spiritual identity relate to how you think we should treat other people?” but the problem was that only Halee and I were religious. The other three were either agnostic or atheist. Chase said that seeing the world through a religious lens is dangerous and leads to much of the racism and world problems today. I disagreed saying that only religious extremists’ view of the world is a dangerous thing. But people who follow the religions more moderately can become more helpful and caring than if they didn’t have that aspect of their lives. Halee said much the same thing (But she sounded much smarter when she said it). Ramona didn’t think religion was dangerous, as Chase did, but she just didn’t think people should need that as a reason to treat others well. She said that it should be intrinsic to be kind to people. Mendy agreed with this statement basically saying that most everyone is kind whether they have religion or not. It is only the crazy people (religious extremists or just nutjobs) are the ones destroying the world.michael picture

The meal ended with the question “what social issue was most important to you?” The basic theme was poverty. Everyone agreed that poverty was a driving force for much of the other problems in America. We all basically agreed that poverty breeds crime, and if you can fix or decrease the amount of poor, you can also decrease the amount of crime in America.

What I learned from the meal is that even people from completely different walks of life can meet around a table and talk about things as civil people. Even when we disagreed, no one raised their voice or looked offended. We all parted with more knowledge of the other side of issues that we haven’t thought about before. I know that at least for me, I walked away more knowledgeable of the struggles and thoughts of near-strangers.

 

 

 

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BriAnna’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By BriAnna

This past weekend I was able to sit down with a few friends and acquaintances for dinner in Nashville, Tennessee and simply talk. There was a total of six of us, and some of these women I had known for years, while others I had met a few weeks ago mutual friends. Even though I was nervous about the diversity requirement for this assignment, I was surprised to see just how diverse the table was and how my friends whom I had known for a long time had opinions and ideas that were different than mine.

Lexi, who is currently about to graduate high school, was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee with her younger brother Collin and her German Shepard Cece. Her parents were very culturally aware growing up and they raised their children to be the same way. While they do have slightly more conservative views they allowed their children to make political decisions for themselves as they got older. Lexi also grew up in a Christian household, specifically Church of Christ, and is very involved in church. A lot of her decisions and morals are based on her religious beliefs.

Julia, a 19-year-old who is currently attending college in Amsterdam and visiting the States on a break, was our second member in attendance, Julia is an independent red-head who was born in the city of Amsterdam in Holland and grew up there and also in France, before eventually moving to the United States with her parents and her younger sister Loren. Her family is very diverse. Her dad is an African American who was born and raised in New York, while her mom is a Caucasian Dutch woman who was born and raised in Holland. Religiously her family is very diverse. Her and her dad are both Christians, her mom is Buddhist of 3 years and former Christian, and her sister is Atheist. Julia did not grow up in an overly religious household, and lives life by her cultural standards rather than her religious standards. Her parents are not strict but are rather involved and let their children have more of a free reign.

The next member was Megan. Megan, a high school senior, grew up in a single parent household and has a dad who lives in Michigan. Megan grew up as the only girl in her family and has a twin brother, as well as a brother who is a junior in college. She was instilled with Christian values from an early age, as well as the perfectionist attitude that her brothers seemed to lack. She is going to college at Vanderbilt University in the fall for Molecular Biology and Chemistry.

Jasmine, a college sophomore at Vanderbilt University studying Political Science and Women’s Studies, grew up in a Ghanan household. She herself is Caucasian but was raised in Ghana. She was adopted by a family who used to live in Ghana but then moved to the states, and they were looking to adopt. She told me that no one would adopt her when she lived in the orphanage in Ghana because people who lived there did not want a white child and that they would be judged if they took her in. She was adopted by her family at the age of twelve. She has a total of 2 brother and 3 sisters. Her brothers are twins and were adopted from China, and her sisters were adopted from Nigeria, Brazil, and Afghanistan. She is the second oldest child in her family. Jasmine was raised in a Christian household and was taught Christian values while she was in the orphanage as well. She says that she frequently visits Ghana so she can keep in touch with her roots.

The last member of the group was Sasha. Sasha, a college junior studying music and elementary education at Tennessee Tech University, was born in Arizona but moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was in the fifth grade. She was raised in a single parent household and lives with her mom, grandmother, and older sister. Politically, she is very liberal in her thoughts and beliefs and is also politically active in the sense that she often participates in marches, petitions, and protests. She is an atheist, so her beliefs and decisions are not guided by religion. Her family is German and Irish, and she grew up with both cultures actively present within her home life.

When we started talking about the central question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following the laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”, Jasmine began saying how citizenship was taking care of those around you and looking out for one another and contributing to the overall wellbeing of your family. She described how there was no one to look out for her during her childhood and that her siblings do that for her now, even though they all come from various parts of the world with different cultural influences. In Ghana a really important value is that you do whatever you can for the wellbeing of your family. So if that means dropping out of school to save your family money or working several jobs even as a child to bring in more money for your family, that’s what you did. It is not a culture where you can be selfish because it is so culturally inappropriate to be that way. You are expected to be selfless for the sake of your family. She also went on to talk about how there are exceptions to that and some families will suffer so their children can stay in school or not have to work when they are young, and how people look at those families as odd or weird because that isn’t the norm there.

Megan then made a really good point, saying that she thinks Jasmine’s circumstance was a good example of showing that caring for one another may be a part of the human nature, even if it occurs among people who are different from one another like it does in Jasmine’s family. Sasha then made the statement of how she thinks it is what being a part of a global community means, and how it is possible for people to coexist together. Everyone at the table agreed with this idea and this was the starting point for the main topic of the dinner.

Two of the major themes, if not the two most significant themes, of the conversation were centered around how many communities a person was really involved in and how they are a part of those communities. Some of the communities that were mentioned were on a smaller scale such as friend groups, neighborhoods, and schools. Others were on more of a larger scale such as your county’s community and your culture. And according to Julia, communities such as your religious and political community can be on both the small and large side of the scale. A lot of these communities were ones that people did not think of and it was actually really fun to go through a lot of them and see the ones that applied to us and those around us at the table. We also all talked about how it was sometimes stressful to balance being a part of these communities, especially when one or some conflict with another.

When I was reflecting on my Kentucky Kitchen Table Project, I learned that it is highly beneficial for people who are different to come together and be able to talk about topics such as this. I think that by sharing thoughts and experiences it helped us be able to become closer to one another as well as being able to see not only what was different about us but also what similarities we shared. I learned how everyone has a different take on what citizenship means to them because of the different lives they have now and had growing up, and there is no definite generic answer for what citizenship is.

I think that this experience is relatable to the class because it reminds me of the article “How We Talk Matters” by Keith Melville. In the article Melville talks about how talk is the essential ingredient of politics and that it can be used to shape people, as well as being used as a tool in the early stages of democracy. It also relates to the central question of “how do we live better together?” Being able to come together and talk about our differences and experiences can help us solve problems and be a better part of our communities.

KKT

Left to Right: Lexi, Julia, Megan, Me, Sasha, Jasmine

Madeline’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Madeline

 

My sorority sister, Anna Kate and I pull up to the house in a new subdivision in the city of Bowling Green, that we plan on doing the Kentucky kitchen table assignment at. My roommate Jenna is putting the finishing touches on her vegetable dish while her boyfriend Carter garnishes his mac and cheese. His friend Damien, whom I have never met has brought soda and is pouring some into glasses as Anna Kate settles in and I sear the chicken that Anna Kate and I had brought mostly cooked.

Anna Kate is a sweet blonde haired girl who I have met only a handful of times. She was in my new member class in the Fall of 2017 with my sorority Delta Zeta. Anna Kate is somewhat more southern than the rest of us, evident in her double first name. She’s sweet and a little meek around new people but loves to have a great time no matter what the event. Carter is a large man, a former football player. He’s a gentle giant. Wouldn’t hurt a fly but at 6’2” and over 200 lbs he doesn’t have to do anything for people not to challenge him. He’s boastful and loud at times but thoughtful and the jokester of the group. Jenna jokes he would have made a great jester in medieval times. Jenna, Carter’s counterpart is small in comparison. She’s barely 5’2” but she’s feisty and very opinionated. She’s my best friend and complements Carter and I with her swift comments. She stirs the pot every once in a while and keeps life interesting. Damien turned out to be more observant like me. He’s lanky and cool. He and I set idly listening to the conversation as dinner was being prepared. Throughout the dinner he laughs and smiles before throwing his head back and sighing before answering every question. In a way it’s comforting. The unspoken language of a wallflower when asked to speak.I, myself, am a wallflower type of person. I enjoy being in a social setting just not in the spotlight. My legal first name is Madeline but almost no one calls me by that. Usually I go by Madie, Anna or Smiles depending on who I’m around. I’m fine with Madeline but my friends and family seem to not be. I’m brutally honest at times with candid quips here and there but most of the time I’m fatally awkward, unsure of myself, clambering around in my lanky off-balanced body. My hamartia is my avoidance of conflict yet I’m loyal to my ideas and like to throw my opinion into the mix.

Everyone fills their plates and sits down at the table where a few pictures are snapped and we begin. I start by asking the required question: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following the law, what does citizenship mean to you?”  Carter answers first talking about being active in the community and everyone builds off of that with Anna Kate adding that we’re protected by the laws and get to take advantage of a multitude of amazing opportunities that come with our US citizenship. Jenna and Damien have a harder time and think on it for a while. Jenna adds that being a citizen means being a part of a bigger community and loving all those that are a part of it even if you aren’t friends with them. Damien talks about the duties citizenship imposes such as being informed about the political happenings within your country and being responsible with the opportunities you have. We all discuss with him the responsibilities we have to our country and if those born into citizenship have more or less responsibilities as citizens.

Between bites of food I ask if anyone had dinners around the table with their family growing up and the impact they think it had on them. Damien turns out to be the only one of us who had everyday dinners at the table with the whole household. Carter had a once a week dinner at the table and the rest of us almost never had family dinners. In my household I am the only person who has used our kitchen table for a meal for over a year. Anna Kate’s family didn’t eat together because the whole family was always so busy with dance lessons and recitals and acting classes. They simply just didn’t have enough time to eat a meal at a table. We all agree that eating at a table together is helpful during development and that we would have all like to have meals like Damien’s family did.

Throughout the evening we discuss career choices, environmentally sustainable food, homelessness, buying local, where we all came from, and fond memories with neighbors and friends. Growing up in Kentucky we all had those barefoot in the backyard amongst friends and lightening bugs stories. We also playfully argue with one another if its lightening bugs or fireflies. (it’s most definitely lightening bugs) It’s interesting to see how everyone grew up and the different perspectives it brings.

Carter and Anna Kate had everything they could possibly desire growing up as children of well off households, Jenna and Damien came from middle class households, and I came from a household that was under the poverty line most of the time.  Damien talked about being black and how that has affected how he has seen situations. We discussed Rankine and he explained his encounters with racism and we all discussed solutions. It was interesting to hear about and with the rest of us being white we found it hard to empathize fully. It was a depressing topic but enlightening.

When asked what they think they would give out as advice to their neighbors a few jokes about neighborly issues arise but everyone generally agreed that they wished their neighbors were more open to being friends and they wished to be like in the movies where the neighbors all hang out and have bonfires and dinners. We talked about how American culture has made being close with neighbors a long lost dream. People used to sit outside on porches talking with one another and now people are always on the go or they’re inside watching television. Someone talked about how people just care about themselves now and after some discussion we realized that was quite true.

I learned a lot about how different opinions can come together to form a call to action among a group that better situations that we all see but haven’t done anything about. I also realize how much of an impact our childhood and upbringing has on us. We look at things from an epistemological viewpoint based on our experiences and have to link them together with similarities to relate to one another. From this dinner alone I realize that experiences are the biggest foundation to our opinions. We are either scorned or elated from them.

Jenna wants to be a FCTs education teacher (basically a home ec teacher) because she doesn’t feel like she was prepared for life outside of her parent’s home while going through the public education system, Carter wants to go into broadcasting because he wants to share news with everyone he can to keep them informed and joyful at times, Damien wants to become an actor to bring joy into the world, and I want to go into healthcare administration to make a difference in the lives of the sick. Each of our careers has its place in the world. Without all the different facets we wouldn’t help humanity live better together. You can make a sick person healed but that doesn’t bring joy to them, you can prepare children to avoid food poisoning but life doesn’t always go as planned.

It was interesting to get so philosophical with these people that I now all consider friends after our meal. Jenna and I are realists but Carter and Anna Kate have dreams of the world being perfectly harmonized someday. Damien just wants to provide laughs through the pain.  Like we have discussed in class and gathered from our reading, life doesn’t go as planned all the time but we can’t numb the pain without numbing happiness. I think that concept rang true for everyone in the group. We all agreed that life has thrown us around but we wouldn’t give up the pain because the beauty of life is derived from the pain.

Overall, I walked away with a new sense of purpose in life and a reminder of my duties as a citizen. I realized pain and happiness are on scales and sometimes they tip back and forth but they will always even out in the end. We have to buckle ourselves in and be ready for anything to be thrown our way to become the type of person we want to be which as Damien and Jenna pointed out, is ever changing as we get further and further into our journey. According to Carter, you have to pick and sort through the rubble and decide what’s worth fixing. Anna Kate finished off by adding that to do great things and be great people we have to love one another and help those around us stranger or not. She really thinks we are obligated to donate our time to our community and country and I think that’s important. As we all started to clear our plates, we decided we were all going to find something nice to do in the coming weeks before we pack up our stuff and head home for the summer. So if you see two girls picking up trash on the side of the road this week just wave. Jenna and I will probably wave back.

My Small Town Kentucky Kitchen Table

IMG_4242By Ally

In the little town of Somerset, Kentucky, it seems as if everyone has the same opinions. You seem to hear the same political and social ideas throughout the city; however, at my Kentucky Kitchen Table, it was refreshing to hear different ideas. At my table, I had my mom, dad, my aunt Pam, my aunt Paula, (they’re twins), Pam’s husband Keenan, and Paula’s new boyfriend, Steve. My mom and aunts’ jobs all involve education, while my dad and Keenan are retired. Steve works at a rental car place in my city. I was excited to hear that Steve was coming to the dinner because he seemed to be different than my other family. Most of my family are seen as Republicans, while Steve is a Democrat—I felt like this would add a lot of character to my answers and not get the same, repetitive statements every time. We ate a hearty meal of vegetable soup, cornbread, and mac n cheese, one of my favorite meals. After filling our stomachs with too much food, I explained the basis of my topic and began to ask questions.

First of all, I asked the question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Paula immediately answered with the statement, “Helping everyone in your community out even when you don’t think you can.” Keenan agreed but wanted to add to the statement, “Not just the community, the country. I think being involved and understanding what is going on in politics is a huge part of being a citizen.” Everyone around the table seemed to nod their heads in agreement. I asked if there were any other thoughts, but no one really seemed to have any extra statements to add besides my mom. She chimed in saying that people shouldn’t really focus on the basic parts of being a citizen, like voting and paying taxes, but focus on the larger parts of citizenship, such as political and social knowledge and being there for others in a time of need. There seemed to be a large common ground in helping out others if it were possible to do. This reminded me of the empathy discussion we had in class where we discussed how far you would go to help someone. It also reminded me of parts of our empathy reading, “The Baby in the Well” by Paul Bloom. It seems like people help in theory, but only the commercialized versions of it. Hearing my family discuss this, it seemed like they would go as far as possible to help—and that makes us a good citizen. When I brought up this statement, it really brought up some disagreement. Pam said it wasn’t the citizens’ faults because they don’t know anything without having the media involved. Steve bounced back with the statement, “That’s why we should stay as involved in issues as we are with social media. We should focus on finding the misfortunes so we can help.” I thought that seemed a little excessive and negative. When I thought about the question, I suppose I agree with these statements as well. Being involved in the country’s social issues is a huge part of citizenship but I had never really thought of it being that important until it was said at the dinner table. I think that there is a fine line between being involved and becoming obsessed with these issues, however. Even though my family had very similar answers to this question, I know there are so many possibilities to answer the question.

I continued to ask questions and create conversation. The next question I asked was, “What do you like about where you live?” My mom answered, “The peacefulness of living in the country.” My dad agreed with it being peaceful, but also said he loved being able to have a large amount of land he can do whatever he wants with. Paula answered the question, “Even though I know I’m not, I feel rich.” She lives in a subdivision in a larger-scale house she recently bought and renovated after her divorce. She wanted her house to have a wealthier feel, she said. This answer really intrigued me because it made me think about how materialistic we are as a culture. Most people in our society feel the need to look and seem wealthy to have this status. When I brought this up to Paula, she said “That’s true. It also may be because I grew up poor and it may just be a change to me.” I really liked that answer and it gave much more clarity. I asked Pam the same question, and she answered, “It’s such a tight-knit community. I just love it.” She lives in a subdivision in the city. “Everyone can go on a walk around the block with anyone and you really get to know your neighbors. There’s no negativity anywhere throughout my little neighborhood.” Steve said his favorite thing about where he lives is that it’s close to Paula. This really showcased the importance of relationships in our lives and how it is implemented into our daily lives. Even though I live in the middle of nowhere, I have very close relationships with my very few neighbors and they are important to me—especially when I go home in the summer. These relationships make all of us happy and are important to what we like about our location of residence.

Another question I asked was, “Do you see your job as serving a greater purpose?” My mother immediately chimed in with the answer yes. She just recently retired from being a high school English teacher and is now a substitute. She said, “I know my job serves a greater purpose. I am educating the youth about how to talk and speak and communicate throughout life. I don’t think that any other job can do this better.” My aunts work at the local college and agreed. Steve said, “All I do is give rental cars to people and drive them to and from there houses. In the eyes of rental car company owners, I suppose I do.” and we laughed. Then he added, “It almost makes you feel bad about yourself if you don’t, but I don’t mind. I like my job.” We all agreed that it’s most important to like your job.

I also asked, “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” Paula said that child hunger, especially in Appalachia, was important to her because it’s heartbreaking to see these children who can’t help it starve. She also said she tries to donate food to God’s Food Pantry and local schools to help with this issue. “I just think that no child should have to go home from school hungry because their parents can’t feed them. Children shouldn’t have to starve.” was her final statement. Pam answered next. She said, “The poverty issue that I see every day while at work really hurts me and I wish I could help.” In our county and surrounding counties, there is a high poverty rate. My mom also agreed with this statement. Since my mom worked in a high school, she saw children that ranged from very wealthy to homeless. She said, “It was so awful to see some of the brightest kids come to school and fall asleep because they had to watch their younger siblings all night while the mom was at work, or they didn’t even have a bed to sleep in.” This made me think about how we could help them—but it also seems like a problem that cannot be solved and has no true solution. Child poverty also can be the fault of the parents they are with. Poverty seems to be a wicked problem in our county. At the table, there seemed to be a common theme of helping children, who are seen as ultimately helpless.

From my Kentucky Kitchen Table, I learned a lot. I asked every question on the list but included the question’s that had the most interesting answers to me. I really thought that since there were differing political views, there would be many different ideas at my table. There seemed to be a lot of common themes throughout the answers. I really loved how well everyone got along at my dinner table and I got to know my family a little better. I am generally the cousin that seems to stay away from political or social conversations and stay out of lengthy conversations with extended family. Being forced to do it was good for me, I believe. It almost made me realize how much I don’t know about my family; these were only two of my mom’s siblings and she is one of seven. I really would like to do this project again with my whole family, all six of my mom’s siblings and four of my dad’s, along with their partners and children. I was constantly engaged in the conversation and even shared some of my viewpoints, which I tend to keep to myself. At the end of the conversation, Paula asked if we could do something like this once a month. Everyone at the table happily agreed.

Kentucky Kitchen Table – Alex

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My name is Alex and I conducted my Kentucky Kitchen table on April 1st in my hometown of Crestwood. My Kentucky Kitchen Table had eight people/two families attend. I am a freshman undergraduate student at Western Kentucky University studying physics and Chinese. My sister, Chloe, is a sophomore at Oldham County High School and often participates in drama productions. My parents are Colleen and Terry and they both work in Louisville as salespeople. The other family that attended has two daughters Elena, who participates in Oldham County High School’s band as a senior flute player, and Olivia, who is on the Oldham County High School female soccer team as a freshman. Their parents are Andrea and Damon, Andrea is a substitute teacher in the area, and Damon works at the Ford plant in Louisville.

The first thing I did after we all got our food was ask everyone the required question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” My father was the first one to answer. He talked about his military service and how being an American citizen means representing American ideals abroad. He mentioned that when he was in the military he was deployed to West Germany he was constantly told that he was a representative of America during his time abroad. While representing America abroad he thought it was extremely important to embody what he thought America stands for, namely freedom and justice for all.

Damon answered next saying something similar and talking a lot about the time that he spent in the military while he was younger. He thinks that every American citizen has a duty to be a model person for everyone else. He elaborated saying things along the lines as an American citizen it is our duty to help those who suffer from injustices both in America and abroad. He saw America as being a protector of the world in sense and thought that we should do our best to help all impoverished and developing nations. He also talked about the founding fathers and what he thought their ideal citizen would be and how we should all aspire to act like that. In his words, a model citizen would be one who is not afraid to protest what they think to be a bad government and is willing to speak their mind and encounter opposing viewpoints, while at the same time they recognize that freedom of speech allows everyone to voice their own opinion.

Andrea chimed in next saying that being a citizen meant living with everyone else harmoniously. She said that as a citizen we have to realize that we are just a part of America as a whole and have a responsibility to live with everyone else. As a citizen we should realize that what might be in our personal best interest might not be the best for a majority of people. Colleen agreed with her saying, being a citizen means that sometimes we have to put the needs of others before our self because we live together in an integrated society.

I said that being a citizen meant that you have the responsibility to try to improve the country you live in to the best of your knowledge. By that I mean the duty of all citizens is to make sure that the government is taking the best care of its citizens as possible. Whether that means actively participating in a democracy or protesting the unjust treatment of some citizens by the government, I believe that being a citizen means that you have a responsibility to look out for other citizens and yourself through whatever means are available to you. The three high school girls all thought along the same lines as me saying that being a citizen means that you should actively participate in government if possible, whether that be through running for office, voting, or protesting.

After that required question the conversation turned back into regular topics that you would discuss at a regular dinner such as, how have things been going recently, how is school going etc. School was a heavily discussed topic for many reasons. Elena is a senior in high school, so everyone wanted to know where she was thinking about going to college. Because of that we discussed the role of college in America and what the benefits and disadvantages of it were currently. All four parents had gone to college, I was the only current college student at the table, and all three high school girls had plans to eventually go to college themselves. Because of each of our different experiences, we all had different opinions on what going to college meant. All four adults agreed that in order to have a better chance at getting a good job it is very important to go to college; however, they also acknowledged that trade schools and community colleges were helpful and sometime necessary steps in getting there. The two fathers were especially adamant about needing to go to college to have a successful future and mentioned how they both went into the military in order to independently pay for the cost. As a current college student, I chimed in saying that the price of college has dramatically risen in the time since the four adults had gone to college and not only is it much harder for everyone to go to college today, it is probably more important for people to go as well. I am extremely lucky to not have to worry about my financial situation as an undergraduate currently; however, I chose to not have loans instead of going to a different university. Elena, the high school senior, echoed my sentiments saying she is currently having a difficult time choosing between what is considered a better university and a university where she won’t have to have student loans. In addition to that, in my field of study, physics, it is almost automatically assumed that I have to go to graduate school in order to eventually find a good job. Because of that I have to take into consideration that I will spend more time and more money in higher education and have to plan my future accordingly. At the end of that discussion everyone agreed that getting a higher education is some form is in a large majority of cases the best decision, but there are some situations where the disadvantages may seem too large a difficulty to overcome so not pursuing more education would be the better path.

The topic of conversation stayed with schools but shifted from universities to high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools. This was because of the recent changes made to the teacher’s pensions by the state legislature. This resulted in Oldham County Schools cancelling school for the previous Friday due to teachers protesting, Andrea had very strong feelings about the changes to the pension fund because she is a substitute teacher and has many friends who are full time teachers in the local area. With the changes to the pensions almost universally hurting teachers, she vehemently opposed the changes to the fund. She mentioned how Kentucky already had one of the approval lowest ratings in the nation from teachers and little to no counties have a functioning teachers union to help teachers in situations like this. All of the kids at the table agreed with her because we all thought that teachers deserve better pay and more respect from the government, especially with how challenging the job can be. There was a differing opinion at the table. My father, Terry, is a pretty hardcore conservative and generally favors changes that can help save the state/federal government money, so for him this change made sense because it was the state government altering the budget to help save more money. He did understand our viewpoints on the topic, but still believed that saving the government money is more important than the cost of reducing teachers’ pensions. For him, the pension cuts were less about the teachers losing money and more about the state relocating funds to better help other people who may need it more.

Overall, hosting this Kentucky Kitchen Table was a learning experience because I never had a conversation like this with my family and friends in this kind of setting. I think that having a political conversation while eating dinner with people you know and are familiar with makes the conversation go much smoother than if you tried it in a different setting or with different people. Everyone feels familiar with a dinner table and if you don’t have anything to say, you don’t have to sit awkwardly and listen to everyone else talk, instead you can enjoy the meal and the conversation. In addition, talking with people you are already familiar with makes it easier to know which topics to avoid because of experiences or extreme opinions, if those exist. At the end of the discussion I felt that everyone had seen a new perspective on at least one topic that we talked about and everyone had thought about politics in a way they hadn’t before. The biggest thing that I think everyone took out of it was that, having a political discussion doesn’t have to be a scary thing that involves a lot of shouting or disagreements but instead can be an insightful conversation.