Taylor’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Taylor

Happy Thanksgiving frommy family to yours! Although I was disheartened to postpone my Kentucky KitchenTable project, Thanksgiving dinner could not have been a more appropriate venueto discuss citizenship. I did my project in Lafayette, Georgia; a small townthat my grandparents have lived in for as long as I can remember. Mygrandparents, Charles and Marjorie “Jean”, were at the dinner. Charles works asa substitute teacher. In his free time, he does woodwork. Jean loves to sew,cook, and read mystery novels. My mother, Kris, was also one of the guests. Sheis forty-seven years old and teaches elementary school. My mom lives in Somerset,Kentucky. My aunt and uncle, Merri and Keith, also spent Thanksgiving with us.Merri owns her own preschool, and Keith drives the school bus during the dayand works on helicopters during the night. Merri and Keith have four children,but only my baby cousin Annabelle was able to come up for the holiday. Annabelleis eight years old and in the second grade. She loves horseback riding andgymnastics. My aunt, uncle, and little cousin live in Enterprise, Alabama. Mymother and I brought the ham and turkey, my grandparents provided the sides,and my aunt and uncle brought desserts. I thought our dinner was unique becausewe prepared the dishes together, even Annabelle got involved by setting anddecorating the tables!

One of the first questions I asked was the required question, “other than voting and paying taxes, what does citizenship mean to you?” My grandmother was one of the first people to speak up, which was not surprising considering how much she loves to talk. Her thoughts on citizenship were more focused on “being a part of” or “belonging” to a country. As soon as she said that, my uncle Keith jumped in and said that citizenship to him meant taking pride in your country. He explained that citizenship was more than where you were born and raised, it was believing and taking pride in your country. My grandfather agreed with his opinion, but he added onto this definition by saying that citizenship was taking care of your country. I do not have his exact sentence quoted but it was something along the lines of “doing your part, taking care of your neighbors.” My grandfather, who served in the military, had a brotherhood mentality when talking about citizenship.

As the conversation continued, we started talking about the differences between generations. This part of the conversation was especially interesting because we had three different generations at our dinner table! When my grandparents were young, the world looked very different. My grandmother talked about dropping out of school in the eighth grade and getting married. She raised five kids before she finally went back and got her GED and her bachelor’s degree in early childhood development. My grandfather shared his story of growing up on a farm before joining the military. After he retired, he also went back to school and became a teacher. Another super interesting story that my grandparents told was about living in Germany when the Berlin Wall was knocked down! My grandmother still had a piece of it on display in her living room. Overall, I felt like my grandparents’ generation had a close connection to family. Even though couples got married younger, had children sooner, and stayed busy, there was an emphasis on spending time with each other. Dinner was a time set aside for family. Many families today continue this tradition, but in our fast-paced world it takes a lot more effort. This conversation reminded me of the “Power of Patience” by Jennifer Roberts. In this reading, Roberts explained the importance of slowing down. This reading has made me more conscious of taking the extra minutes to have quality conversations with my family and develop a deeper appreciation for them.

 After that conversation ended, I looked over the list of questions in our handout packet. Since we were all from different places, I thought the question “is there anything you can do that might make things better for you and your neighbors where you live?” would be an interesting one to ask. My grandmother chimed in first and said she would love starting a neighborhood watch program. Recently, there have been several robberies around her area. She thought that maybe if the neighbors were watching out for each other, there would be less risk. My mom – who teaches in one of the poorest counties in Kentucky – said she could take a $20 bill, go to Goodwill, and buy every one of her students a winter coat. This conversation tied perfectly into our earlier discussion where we defined citizenship as taking care of your neighbors. My grandma’s idea and my mom’s idea differed so greatly it reminded me of our deliberation projects. One of the biggest things I noticed about all the deliberations was the diversity of topics. Every student saw a different wicked problem in the world based on their personal perspective. Additionally, this conversation made me think about the “Snare of Preparation” by Jane Addams. These actions to make our communities better are not difficult to complete. If we want to define being a citizen as taking care of our neighbors, then to be a good citizen we should follow through with our ideas.

One of the last topics we discussed was about our hometowns. I wanted to end our dinner on a positive note, so I asked, “what is one thing you love about where you live?” My uncle said he loved living around his family. His children still live in Enterprise, and his parents live less than an hour away. My aunt said she loved her preschool and all her babies. My mom said she loved Kentucky because it had all four seasons. I have to say that I agree with my mom, Kentucky has beautiful weather! Unlike Georgia and Alabama, the trees in Kentucky change colors and lose their leaves. The weather goes from 90 degrees to 70 degrees to 50 degrees and so on. In Alabama, there is summer and winter. The temperature is 85 degrees one day and 40 degrees the next. My grandmother said she did not love where she lived, and she would be happier in Florida. She said the warmer weather would help her arthritis (my grandmother also thinks eating ice cream will cure heartburn). My grandfather talked about his extra grandchild, Aria, who lives next door. She’s a little toddler who loves my grandparents to death, and she’s always coming over to play checkers. I asked Annabelle what her favorite thing about Enterprise was and she told me about her horse. This was my favorite conversation of the night because it made everyone smile and think of the wonderful things in our lives.

Overall, I would consider my Kentucky Kitchen Table project a success! The food was great, and we had a great mix of people. Although most of it was my family, we were all from different places and it was very rare for us to get together like this. There were three different generations present and that offered different perspectives on citizenship. I wish my cousin Annabelle was a little older because right now she is too young to have a thoughtful input on these types of conversations. However, I think her perspective when she gets older is going to be interesting because she is bi-racial (half white, half African American) and she is also adopted. I learned a lot about my family, mostly because we never have conversations like this. We never even get together for dinners like this unless it is Thanksgiving or Christmas. This dinner forced me to slow down and talk, and I have gained a better understanding of my family because of that. I hope, moving forward, we can start a tradition of having these important conversations.

Erika’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

Just a side note, I forgot to take a picture. I’m really sorry about that.

On Thanksgiving Day—November 22,2018—a well-educated, goal-oriented, diverse group of people gathered around a table in with copious amounts of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and salad to kick off my Kentucky Kitchen Table in Prospect, Kentucky. There were eight people in attendance– my family and I, and my mom and dad’s family friends (I never knew them as well as my family did). More specifically, in attendance were:

  • My dad, who is your typical middle-aged white man. He immigrated to the United States from Finland in 1998. Currently, he works in IT as a web architect in the Humana Military Department
  • My mom, who immigrated to the United States from Romania in 1992. She used to work as a Project Manager in various automobile factories but is currently unemployed.
  • Markus, my little brother who is sixteen years old. He attends North Oldham High School.
  • Amir, my parents’ friend. He immigrated to the United States from Iran. His uncle was the Vice Prime Minister under Mohammed Reza Shah Pallavi. Currently, he is an engineering professor at the University of Louisville.
  • Mitra, who is also my parents’ friend and Amir’s wife. She is also from Iran but was educated in Austria from grade school through medical school. She is currently a full-time doctor.
  • Arya, my brother’s friend and Amir and Mitra’s son. He is also sixteen years old and attends a private high school in Louisville (Trinity High School).
  • Tonya is a particularly motivated 11-year-old I used to coach. She currently attends Saint Francis, a private middle school in Goshen, Kentucky.

It was interesting to see the various definitions of citizenship arise throughout the conversation.Primarily, I asked “What does citizenship mean to you apart from voting, paying taxes, and following laws?” The adults—my mom, dad, Mitra, and Amir—all seemed to agree that it meant helping others. Amir added that it meant donating to charity to help citizens less fortunate than us. My dad responded by saying“Well, if I were to say donating to charity, I’m afraid I would be a hypocrite.” But Arya, Markus, and Tonya seemed to agree that it meant “the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.” Perhaps the group consensus was that basic human decency and compassion towards each other. Nonetheless, this set a precedent for the schism of opinions between the adults and minors at the table.

The kind of community everyone wanted to live in tied closely to the two biggest social issues everyone cared about (table-wide): guns and drugs. Amir and my dad, then later my mom, Mitra, and Arya, all agreed that “[We] would like to live in a gun and drug free community.” Mitra chimed in, claiming “I actually wouldn’t even care if we made the laws so that responsible people had guns for self-protection, but why would anyone need a militarized weapon?” Inevitably, the discussion led into theNRA’s domination of the Republican party, and subsequently, the government. A recurrent theme for this question, and later in advice for those running for office, was the NRA and political financing. Mitra also added that the education system should be improved. Markus, Arya, and Tonya subsequently shared their school experiences and felt that they were not being challenged enough based on the level of classes they were in. Markus complained about too little homework, being bored in class, and not being motivated enough to work any harder. I added that the lack of motivation and discussion of civic engagement within the education system might be the cause of some societal issues today. Considering the audience at the table—a professor, a doctor, two engineers, and their children—it is no surprise everyone agreed. I did not feel this when I was in high school, and it came as a shock to me and the parents around the table to learn how students currently in the education system feel it is failing them—and they do not even get to vote for politicians who could potentially reform the educational system.

When giving advice to those running for office, Mitra, Amir, my dad, and my mom stressed the importance of being“for the people” instead of money—both democrats and republicans alike. They discussed how the Republican Party was bought out by the NRA and rich people and how the Democrat Party was bought out by Labor Unions and rich people. Even though I would say that I had a relatively informed audience, learning that citizens with political efficacy have such a negative view of politics was a little disheartening. But they do have a point– the fact that that representatives are more representative of the organizations that fund them than the people who elect them is a major threat to our role as citizens. And now I am aware that people are coming to believe that their votes matter less than money: Although he did not mention this at the table, my dad has previously told me that he has been discouraged from voting in the past for this reason. I asked the kids what advice they would give, and interestingly,Tonya goes “give everybody a turn!” While this did not quite answer the question, it did turn into a discussion about imposing a limit on the number of terms a congressman/woman should be able to serve.

Additionally, everybody agreed that knowing your neighbors is important. When I asked “why,” nobody could think of an answer right off the bat. Markus was the first to break the silence and said,“in case of an emergency?” But after even more thought to the question, my dad said,“I guess it’s just a good thing to socialize,” and everybody seemed to accept that as an answer. It still leaves me wondering why it is necessarily a good thing to know your neighbor (even if I do agree it is a good thing)?

I finally asked “what kind of person do you want to be?” To that Mitra, Amir, and my mom basically said successful and good at their jobs. Markus said “smart,” and Arya said “smart and hardworking.” Then Tonya said, “I want to be a good person” and the conversation fell silent. I am pretty sure this is where everybody, including myself, re-evaluated their priorities. My dad then said, “I would like to be kind and compassionate.” Even though it was the end of the discussion, this was when the difference of opinions between the adults and minors at the table became evident to me. We all know kids tend to be idealistic, but why is their idealism often swept under the rug? And where did this difference come from?This is what I have come to learn through my KKT: We all start by holding idealistic viewpoints—and those were applied to our perceptions of citizenship and community. For the most part, we grew up respecting the president and other authorities in our community, no matter the political party, and thought we would go out into society as adults with the same optimism. However, experience hardens us. Political apathy is developed over time, not only when we decide other obligations are more important, but also when we become discouraged by the corruption we come face to face with on a daily basis.

The responses to “what kind of person do you want to be?” actually made me think about the article If it Feels Right by David Brooks. Even though he discusses the drawbacks of young people’s morals being built individually, as opposed to communally, I cannot help but to think how wrong he was in this case. The older people at the table seemed to agree that they would like to be successful and good at their jobs—but they did not say anything about wanting to be kind until Tonya, the youngest member at the table, said she wanted to be kind. This is not quite a moral dilemma, but the adults’, and even teenagers’, priorities give insight to their communally- based morals, which could possibly mean putting costly success above basic compassion. There are dangers of extreme individualism in a deliberative environment, but what about a case in which it really is the morally-correct opinion to have?

This can also relate to the centralHonors 251 idea of giving others more say over their own lives. It was quite evident that the minors in the discussion cared about various societal issues—guns, drugs, education, community—but they do not have the power to vote and are often not considered in the policymaking process. In fact, their opinions are often disregarded by adults within their communities, sometimes even their own parents. This in itself is a societal issue that has been previously debated with solutions such as lowering the voting age. But, obviously, it is necessary to develop more options. When we contemplate groups of people who need to be given more of a say over their own lives, we must include minors. They are out future, and they play a fundamental role in our community.

McCall’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

            For my Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I ate dinner at my friend Jenna’s house on Friday, November 23, where I was joined by her and her family. I ate dinner with Jenna, her mother Denise, her father John, and her older brother Blake. Jenna is my friend from home who I became close to my senior year of high school. Jenna is now a senior at Walton-Verona High School. Prior to eating dinner with her, I had not seen Jenna in three months. Denise is a registered nurse at St. Elizabeth health center. John is a police officer at the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. Blake was a student at Lindsey Wilson College and is transferring to the University of Kentucky. We started off the dinner by talking about the Christmas tree that the family had just finished putting up in the living room. John talked to me about how he had a live tree every year growing up and how this year he decided to buy a live tree for his family. To preface the situation in a bit more detail for Jenna, Denise, John, and Blake, I talked about what Honors 251 is as a class. I described that Citizen and Self is a class focused on the social dilemmas and responsibilities faced by society and is based heavily in discussion between classmates. I asked the family the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” John seemed to speak up more often than the rest ofthe family and was clearly passionate about the topic of civic duties which is understandable considering his profession. To John, from what I can recall,citizenship meant contributing to society through work, being in the country legally, and obeying the laws. I realize that the question tries to exclude obeying the laws as a response, but John made it known that obeying the laws andrespecting authority is a large part of what he considers to be citizenship. John spoke calmly but firmly about the value he places on cooperation between citizens and law enforcement. John spoke passionately about his father immigrating from Europe as a child, bringing a perspective to his opinions that I would not have guessed. Denise took a more sensitive approach to her answer, focusing more on community relations. She thought of citizenship on a more individual, person to person level. To Denise, citizenship means helping others in order tomake the community a better place. Jenna, being a student all her life, valued going to school and getting her education as part of her duty as a citizen. Blake remained awfully quiet at the beginning of the discussion. I decided to shift the conversation to a different question to focus more on our own community on a smaller scale. I asked, “What is the thing you love most about living where you do?” Everyone around the table could agree that the main advantage of living in Northern Kentucky is the location geographically. We allagreed that we enjoyed living so close to a big city like Cincinnati without actually living inside the city. John pointed out that Northern Kentucky is generally a safe area with people who know each other and take pride in the area. John pointed out that economically Northern Kentucky is a good place to live due to the abundance of jobs brought by the industrial parks stationed there by big companies. After sharing stories about my grandparent’s old restaurant in my hometown called “Ponzer’s,” and Blake sharing stories from working at his uncle’s t-shirt printing business, I asked one last specific question to touch on the religious aspect of citizen’s lives. I asked, “Does your religious identity affect how you think we should treat other people?” Immediately, the entire family spoke a unanimous yes. I asked them to elaborate and Denise told me that she feels called by her religion to love other people. Her take on religion seemed to be her own answer to the question “How can we live better together?” According to Denise, Jenna, John, and Blake, loving one another and caring for each other is how we can live better together as a society.

Jess’ Kentucky Kitchen Table

My Kentucky Kitchen Table was held on November 22, 2018 at my parents home in Rineyville, Kentucky. Due to it being Thanksgiving, my entire immediate family was present with the addition of spouses. Although a family usually does not bring much diversity to the table, the presence of spouses who come from a different background and the separation of age between my siblings provided diversity that was very prevalent in the conversation. My Mother, Donna, who is 55 years old, works for Human Resources for the Army and grew up in St. Louis, MO in a Lower-Mid Middle Class family. My Father, Tim, who is 57, works as a Construction Manager for an Apartment complex in Elizabethtown. He also grew up in St. Louis with a large family that did not make a lot of money. Together they had four kids. My sister Amanda is the oldest and she is 30. She is a stay at home mom while her husband TJ, 28, is a Nurse at a hospital in St. Louis. My next sibling, Michael, 27, is a Middle School Math teacher in Kansas City, MO. His wife Maria, 25, also teaches math in Kansas City. My last brother Zach, 20, is a junior at WKU. His wife Taylor, 22, works for admissions at the University and they are the typical low income married college couple that struggles to get by. The spouses of my siblings are very different from one another and from my immediate family, though I would say that Maria comes from a family most similar to mine. TJ comes from a slightly broken family and he describes his upbringing  as one where he had to work very hard to have the success he has had today. Taylor is from a very small town in Kentucky called Beaver Dam. Her small-town upbringing makes her view the world in a very different way than she sees of her husband. Overall, while all of the people at my Kentucky Kitchen Table were white, the experiences and class status of the people present was diverse and even the regional origin of everyone present brought different sides to the story. 

The conversation started with me asking everyone at the table, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Tim started the conversation with a broad explanation that citizenship is in part about patriotism and pride for ones country, followed by an incorporation of morality and doing good that every person possesses. People seemed to agree with this statement but Michael, who has a degree in Social Studies, added that citizenship is about using your morality to seek out problems around you in order to better improve the world we live in. I found that this directly corresponded to the overall theme of the class in that we often talk about how to better improve the world we live in. In response to this statement by Michael, I asked about how we should go about improving the world around us. This stumped everyone for a little bit. Everyone agreed that citizenship is about improving society and the world, but no one could seem to give a good process. Zach asked for an example. I gave the example of income inequality because I knew it would garner differing opinions. I framed the example by saying that it is obvious that there is a problem of income inequality in the United States and the world, but how are we supposed to fix it, or is it even our duty as citizens to do so. Right off the bat everyone agreed it is our duty to address the problem. However, the ways that people proposed were very different. Michael proposed an approach at local government. He used his experience as a teacher to talk about how he sees income inequality and its affects on other aspects of society, specifically education, every single day. He said that if we get involved with local government, it will help the issue more directly. In retrosepct, it seems like Michael believes that part of solving problems is starting on a more direct level. Getting involved at the source of the issue while still getting involved with a sense of power seemed to be his solution to solving problems as citizens. Donna agreed with this but questioned what was to be done about the issue while things were being solved behind closed doors. Zach agreed and said that he trusts the government and thinks  getting involved locally is a good idea but he doesn’t know how the people who are being directly affected by this issue are supposed to wait for aid while they struggle every day. This is when TJ jumped in with a very different opinion. He seemed to back out on his original opinion that this was an issue that was our responsibility to solve because he offered the antidote of his own experience growing up poor and making his way to a healthy living as a nurse. Michael respected this but brought in his own two cents about how he was better supported to get to his healthy living because of multiple reasons including his skin color, his gender, and his educational opportunities. 

Unfortunately, this is where the conversation took a turn. TJ disagreed strongly that those factors helped him get to where he is. He attributes his success on hard work, not his race, gender, or educational opportunities. Michael attempted to explain to TJ that he does not mean that TJ did not work hard, only that factors, and he put an emphasis on education, helped him achieve his success easier. This debate went back and forth for a little with additions from Tim, Zach and Donna but overall the debate was going nowhere. In hindsight, I wish I would have been able to redirect this conversation and bring it back to the issue of citizenship but it was hard considering the personal stakes involved. However, the conversation proved to me just how hard these wicked problems are to solve, let alone talk about. Everyone has their own idea of the world based on their personal experiences. I for one tried to stay out of the debate because I knew that I viewed the discussion very differently from my family despite the fact that we are indeed a family.

To me this just shows how important it is to listen to one another with an open mind, which is something we touched on in class quite often. It is clear that we all have opinions that are shaped by experiences, but I also think it is safe to say that while we each have our own truths, we still need to work to find a common ground to solve problems. I somehow managed to formulate this idea to my group by the end of the conversation and while we all agreed, I still felt discouraged that it was so hard to find that common ground. Now as I type this, I understand that the entire point of wicked problems is that they do take time to solve. As I reflect on my KKT, I believe that even though in the end nobodies mind was changed on how to solve issues as citizens, the conversation itself was started. I think that the problem with citizenship is that we oftentimes start these conversations but never do anything to step inside the shoes of the other side. I think that in order to find a middle ground and begin solving issues, we need to, as a government and as citizens, have conversations and then place ourselves directly in the place of the other argument in order to simulate their life experiences and why they believe what they do so that we can begin looking at issues with fresh eyes. This is not easy by any means. It is natural to want to view the world through our eyes. However, if we are to progress and grow as a nation and as individuals, we need to begin to look at the world through the eyes of those around us every once in a while. I think it would do us all some good. 

Camille’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Camille

My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal took place in Louisville, Kentucky. My older cousin was getting married soI decided to ask the questions at her rehearsal dinner. The dinner was at anItalian restaurant called Volare. The people sitting at my table were my mother(Sarah), father (Todd), my cousin (Lindsay), and a family friend (Rich). My mother is a dental hygienist and my father is an electrical engineer for the government. Both have very liberal stances in politics and I would say are pretty accepting of people. My mom takes great pride in being an informed citizen. She watches the national news every night, has never missed an election, and volunteers throughout Louisville. My father is more moderate in his opinions and has a mixed viewpoint since he works for the government. I would say he really only does the bare minimum when it comes to being a citizen. My cousin Lindsay is a lawyer for the district attorney’s office inLouisville. She is much younger than my parents so her opinion varied a little bit from theirs. My parents’ family friend is much older, as he was a friend of my grandfather. His views are a little more conservative, but also liberal. He does a lot for his community and has done so for most of his life. He is on the board of his neighborhood association and does a lot of community service.

            I began the conversation with asking a couple other questions instead of asking what citizenship meant to them yet. Some common themes that first came up were about good morals. Sarah and Rich both stressed the importance of being a good neighbor. They both live in the same neighborhood in Louisville which is called the Highlands. This neighborhood is very diverse and is welcoming of all types of people. Rich brought up how he sponsors a refugee family through his church. The family is from Syria, I believe, and he takes them to any place they need to get to in Louisville. He teaches them English. Rich stressed how lucky he was to have been born in the U.S. so he feels that helping these refugees who came from nothing is part of his civic duty. He said that trying to communicate with people that speak very little English has had a deep impact on him. It has enhanced how he views living in the U.S. Sarah knows every single neighbor on our street. She has talked to each one, and introduces herself to any new people that move in. I think that she does this in order to keep up the community within our neighborhood. Rich is also on the neighborhood committee so it is important to him that everyone feels welcome.

            Another theme we talked about religion. Sarah, Todd, and I are all technically Catholic, but identify as atheist. Rich and Lindsay are active Catholics. My parents both stressed that people can have good morals without being active in a religion. This is how they raised me so I agree with them. I also believe that people can be morally good without believing in God. Rich, however, stresses that being active in the church is important in daily life. Most of the service he does is through his church. My dad believes that doing service does not have to be related to religion and that helping our neighbors is important regardless. Much of Lindsay’s work is dealing with people in the community who have not been “good neighbors”. They are individuals who have broken laws or caused harm in the Louisville community. I think that if people were to be informed citizens they could be better at following the law. This could relate to the ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ reading since a once normal civilized society turned into a war zone. This may not directly relate to our conversation, but in some ways it does. When people do not follow laws and do not practice good morals it is possible for a civilized society to turn in to a place of chaos.

            When I asked what citizenship meant to the table, people definitely had varying answers.  Lindsay, being a county lawyer, answered that citizenship is taking care of our community, of our homes, giving to those less fortunate, and being kind. She also said that if every single person followed the law and was a good citizen then she wouldn’t have a job as a prosecutor. I think that this is an interesting point. There will always be people within society that do not follow the law and are not respectful to others, but this is what people like Lindsay are for. They serve the purpose of protecting the community from those that cause harm to it. The leaders of the Bosnian genocide felt that they were doing some sort of good when in reality they were causing great harm to the country as a whole. There is a fine line between what people think is good for the community and what is actually good.

            Rich had a different take on citizenship. He emphasized that being a good person is a huge part in being a good citizen. This ties into his help with the refugee family. Since they did not have anything when they came to the U.S. helping them out was something he had to do according to him. He tied being a good Catholic and citizen together saying that they almost went hand in hand in some ways. Sarah had a different stance on citizenship. She is proud to be a citizen of the U.S., Kentucky, and our neighborhood the highlands. Since she has this pride in where she lives she feels that it is important to keep up the condition of where she lives. In some ways, I feel that this relates to “To Hell With Good Intentions”. Sarah stressed that citizenship starts at the local level. This relates to this article because it was all about how Americans need to fix the problems in the U.S. before going abroad. Fixing the problems that directly affect our citizens is imperative.

            Todd had a very different stance on what citizenship means to him. He talked a lot about how lately being a citizen of the U.S. has been an embarrassment to him. Being a citizen to him means that we take care of other human beings, but that the recent leadership in the U.S. is not doing this. Since the U.S. does have the resources to help countries that do not he feels that they should try to help all people in need. This also kind of goes along with ‘Love Thy Neighbor’. There was a great debate about whether or not it was the United States’ duty to help the Bosnians. I agree with one of the points Todd said. He said that it is hard to be a good citizen of a country who is not a good citizen of the world as a whole. I agree with this. I feel like many people would feel this way in the current political climate of the U.S.

            The conversation also shifted into talking about jobs and how they relate to citizenry. Todd holds a federal engineering job for the Corps of Engineers, but he feels that this has no real connection to his role of a citizen. Sarah, as a dental hygienist, feels that her job does serve her neighbors. She sees people on a daily basis that have had very little access to adequate dental care in the past, so by helping them she is helping her fellow citizens. Lindsay’s job directly relates to her role as a citizen. As a public prosecutor, she protects the public on a daily basis by sending those who have broken laws to jail. She is contributing to the safety of the community which seems to relate to being a good citizen.

            Overall I feel like one of the main themes of our conversation was about being a good neighbor. This word not only applies to our literal neighbors that we live next to, but also to other citizens in the U.S.We must respect others and help people that do not have the resources to help themselves.Being a good citizen is clearly not just about following laws. It is also about having a strong moral compass that helps others within society. I think that what side of politics someone falls on also plays a huge role in what being a citizen means to someone.  Throughout this conversation I learned that people value their citizenship at different levels. While Sarah, Rich, and Lindsay felt that citizenry means helping their neighbors and serving their community at the local level, Todd felt that we must take care of our neighbors at a global level. I think that a combination of both is vital in order to keep order in this modern society. With so many conflicts going on in the local, the national, and the international communities, every citizen must try to contribute in some way to put an end to said conflicts.

Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Grace

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place on November 11 at my grandparent’s home (next door to my house) in Alvaton with many members of my family. In attendance was my mother, Robin, who is a lawyer and enjoys staying up to date on current news and world happenings. It is very rare for my mom to not have an opinion about something. Similar to my mom is my grandfather, Larry, who is a retired accountant and Air Force veteran. He has very conservative views and isn’t very trusting of the national government. He always seems to have a very strong opinion about everything. On the other hand, my grandma, Deanna, who is a retired kindergarten teacher of 42 years is very much a people pleaser and doesn’t like to ruffle anyone’s feathers. Also an educator is my aunt, Shawna, who is a school psychologist at a low income, high risk elementary school. She has lived in a lot of cool places and done interesting things throughout her life and always brings a new perspective to every situation. My sister, Anna, is a junior at Greenwood High School. She plays volleyball. My brother, Brody, is a freshman at Greenwood High School and plays football. Neither of my siblings were very interested in contributing to the conversation. However, my little cousin, Kayle, who is 9 was very eager and willing to participate. She likes to act grown up.

My family has the tradition of eating dinner with all 10 of our close family members at my grandparents house every Sunday night. Everyone at the table had family dinner around a table almost every night growing up and we all love it and think it’s very important. We have always had the rule of no phones at the table and there is no TV in the kitchen or dining room. I didn’t know how much I would miss this but after eating out for every meal now, having the meal overtaken by cellphones, and eating on the run, I truly realize how much I appreciate it.

While we were preparing the food, I explained to everyone that we would be having a conversation about citizenship and community. Once we sat down at the table, I started off with the required question of “beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”. My grandma was the first to chime in with “safety”. When I asked her to elaborate, she explained that she believes public safety is becoming an increasing concern in our society, especially since 9/11. My 9 year old cousin made a very insightful point. She said that being a citizen means being informed. We all completely agreed with this. My grandpa gave the example of how important it is to be especially informed about candidates running for office. 

Next we talked about what everyone thought were the best things about our world today. My brother broke his silence to chime in that he thought brownies were the best thing about our world today. After some giggles, we moved on to some more serious answers. My grandma thinks that the freedoms we have today are one of the most important things about our world. We talked about how our personal liberties and freedoms have evolved as our country has developed. Now we have so many freedoms, including those of speech and religion, as well as those taken for granted such as choosing where to live and work. We talked about all the changes that my 102 year old great-grandmother has lived through. My mom pitched in that she thought education was one of the best things about our world today, specifically in our country. She has always stressed to us the importance of getting an education. 

My family, my aunt and uncle’s family, and my grandparents all live next to each other on a family farm. So the questions about knowing your neighbors, and giving advice to your neighbors were harder to apply to us because we obviously know our neighbors… they’re our family. However, they had lots to say about how they felt their jobs served a greater purpose and how it contributed to their role as a citizen. My mom, an injury lawyer, is very passionate about her job and the people she helps. She feels that besides paying taxes and voting, her job is how she contributes as an active citizen. My grandma and my aunt both work(ed) for the school system, and also felt that they changed the lives of their kids at school which is one of  their biggest roles as a citizen. My grandpa did not take a break from eating to answer this one. 

They also had a lot to say when I asked if they had ever had a conversation with someone who is from a very different background than them. My grandparents, my siblings, my cousin, and I all agreed that we didn’t think we had. My mom and my aunt, on the other hand, had many times. My mom told us how it isn’t unusual for her to have clients that come from cultures where all dealings must be done with the men. Even if the woman was the one involved in the accident, they want her to speak to the man (whether that be her husband, brother, or father) about the case. She also has clients who come from very poor backgrounds, and often times may even be homeless. She says it’s very much an eye opener to work with these people. My aunt’s elementary school is low income and is majority immigrants, so she deals with diversity on a daily basis. She said more times than not, she has to have an interpreter there to be able to talk to the parents of the child who usually do not speak English. She also told us that it is very common for her to have to make home visits for one reason or another. She said certain cultures will offer you food, and no matter how unappetizing it looks or smells, you have to eat it because it is considered very rude if you do not. Out of my whole family, my aunt has definitely had the most experience with diversity.

My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal went really well, although it did not go how I thought it would considering my family is very loud and opinionated. During this meal, however, they were relatively quiet by their standards and were pretty much in agreeance on most things. They did give lots of silly answers and crack themselves up, which is not one bit out of character. Even though ours didn’t get much below surface level, overall, I think the Kentucky Kitchen Table project was insightful and the conversation is one that should happen more often over a family dinner. 

McLain’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place on November 6, 2018, in my parents’ home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. My step-dad, Jody, is seated on the left in the plaid shirt. He is a developer in Bowling Green and owns two small businesses, for one of which I work. Moving clockwise around the table, next is my mom, Anne. She was a teacher for 15 years in Bowling Green, and now has her Real Estate license.  Tiffany, her best friend, is seated next to her. She is wearing an “I voted” sticker because this dinner took place on the day of midterm elections, but I’ll get to that later. Next is Christiaan, but we call him”Bubba.” He sells insurance for Vanmeter Insurance here in town. His wife Anne Marie, and Chapel, one of their three daughters, are sitting next to him. Chapel is a junior at Greenwood Highschool. My sister Emmie is next. She is a senior at Greenwood Highschool and will be attending Transylvania University next year to play volleyball. Next, Landon is a sophomore at WKU from Mayfield, Kentucky studying Finance. My boyfriend Marshall is next to Landon. He is also from Mayfield and is senior at WKU studying Business Economics with a minor in sales. Finally, there is me, but I was taking the picture. I am a sophomore studying Geology at WKU.

Sitting around this table were 10 people who happen to live in the same town right now, but did not all grow up here and some whom do not plan to stay. From highschool students to business men to mothers to college students, these different viewpoints shaped the way the conversation flowed that night, and everyone learned something new. After the food had been served, and we all sat down, I asked the required question: “what does citizenship mean to you?” It took the group a while to really come up with an answer, I think they had voting on the brain because it was election night, but I asked them to think deeper. The overall response was to simply be good people, to act in a way that will better your community rather than create more tension as we tend to see very often with such polarized political groups. This was the first question I asked, and the group answered it in a way more like I was a teacher and they were the students. Almost as if they wanted me to give them a sticker for the right answer. In class and in our deliberations we have learned and practiced guiding a conversation and asking questions to poke at those attending in hopes of getting a real conversation started rather than just answering questions and moving on. So, with this in mind, I moved on to questions I felt they would better relate to or really have an opinion about. 

”Who voted?” I asked. Almost every person at the table said “me” or showed their sticker. Emmie and Chapel are not 18 yet, so they were not able to. Landon, on the other hand, is registered to vote at home, even though he lives in a house in Bowling Green and technically could have registered here. Later on in the evening, he expressed his regret in not voting here or at home. “I couldn’t go home today, because I had class, but I guess I could have sent an absentee ballot. I probably just should have registered and voted here. I feel kind of bad about it.” he told me. Those who did vote were proud of participating, as they should be. The discussion then moved to ask how people voted and if voting a straight ticket is a good idea. Most believed the job of the voter was to be informed about those running and make a decision for each position based on what they believed rather than just choosing those in their party. 

Once the discussion died down in regard to voting, I moved through the recommended questions until one sparked interest. “How do you think your job relates to your role as a citizen?” was a major conversation starter for this group. Beginning with Jody, he owns Kenway Concrete, Llc and J. Allen Builders, , and a majority of the people working for him have a criminal record. To be an employee of his they must pass a drug test, but he will give a job to most anyone willing and ready to work hard. That is hard to come across in todays world. Citizens who have been in prison often have a difficult time finding work that pays enough to support a family, but Jody gives them that opportunity. This also brought up the discussion of immigration, and the competition for work. “Immigrants just work harder. They are here to support themselves and their families back home, so they show up to work, they pass drug tests… they want to be here,” Jody explained. He often would rather hired an immigrant with a valid visa, because it makes jobs go faster and the customer is happier. This is the struggle with blue collar jobs. “Americans are lazier,” he admitted. “The immigrants I employ don’t get all the same benefits the Americans do, so they have more to lose and more to work for.”

Anne Marie just began homeschooling her youngest daughter in the past month, and like I mentioned previously, my mom was a teacher for 15 years, so their job influences the community through the youth. They shape those whom we will see on the ballot in the future running for positions in our city, state, and country. The two women had many criticisms of the school systems in Bowling Green. “If I could change anything in this town right now I’d completely revamp the Board of Education,” mom said. Like we have talked about in class, even professors do not get paid enough for what they do, and neither do elementary, middle or highscool teachers. The subject of immigration arose again during the conversation regarding education in Bowling Green. My mom remembers a time when she had 35 students in her classroom, and 6 of them had recently immigrated to the United States. Specifically, twin boys from Africa. They spoke no English, had never sat in a classroom like this one before, and did not even know how to use a Western toilet. The situation was extremely difficult for everyone involved, and they just threw them into a classroom they were not learning anything in, because they did not understand what anyone was saying. Mom remembers getting a phone call from a mother of a student named Sarah in the same class; she was requesting her child be moved to another classroom, because she sat next to the boys and could not focus due to their strong odor. Mom had complained to the office about how strongly they smelled, but they were too afraid to do anything, because they did not want to insult them. “They said it was because they were African American; Sarah was African American too.” All teachers are not trained in ESL (English as a Second Language), and with Bowling Green listed as a sanctuary city, something regarding a change in the school systems and the way new foreign students are taught must change. “It is not that we do not want them there, they are children and we want them to learn so they can succeed. It is hard to do that when you cannot even communicate with them. Something has to change to bridge that gap.” she urged. 

The book we have been reading from, Love thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Mass, has opened my eyes to the horror many immigrants have faced. People do not just up and leave their homes because they want to make trouble for someone else. They leave because they are living somewhere they do not feel is safe for themselves or their families. As you have read, immigration issues were in the spotlight of my Kentucky Kitchen Table, and no one believed they were “rapists and criminals” as we have seen in the news. The issue is that of determining the best way to introduce them into our culture and society while also making it fair for those already here. Obviously, throwing them in with no help does not work, like in the example of my mom’s classroom, and unfortunately, people do not want to share the money they have worked hard for to pay for people they do not even know. Immigration is a wicked problem, and we were not able to solve it at one dinner, but there is hope for pressing issues such as this one if so many people of different backgrounds, faiths, a political parties can get together and discuss them like we did on November 6th.

I really enjoyed this project. Dinner with family is a part of my everyday routine, but having so many new faces around the table was a treat for everyone there. People appreciate their opinions being heard, and participating allowed them to do so while also hearing others. I know each person there learned something new and took home a new perspective on something they may have never thought of before.