On Saturday, November 10th I got together with Madeleine’s family at their home in Bowling Green, Kentucky to experience intellectual conversation and diversity amongst a group of people I’d mostly never met before over dinner. They cooked an amazing meal of lasagna with green beans, garlic knots, and the best desert I have ever had, no exaggeration, a Mud Pie. Having a home cooked meal after being away from my home so long was extremely satisfying and heart warming.
Madeleine and Scott from our class were in attendance. I know both of them pretty well, but we had not had any deep discussions about the topics from Honors 251 outside of class until this project. Madeleine is from Bowling Green so she had inside perspective on the community as a teenager. We have a lot in common, actually. We both enjoy listening to Musical Theatre and like Disney. She is high energy and so much fun to be around. Madeleine is also good at keeping the conversation going, which came in handy sometimes at the dinner in between topics. Scott is from Vine Grove, Kentucky, and is new to the area, like me. It was interesting to see perspective from a community I’ve never even visited. Scott is quieter than Madeleine, but very insightful.
As far as the new people I met go, Ron and Jennifer, Madeleine’s parents, hosted the dinner at their home. They were very kind, supportive people, and I would even argue that they are a power couple. They both work for Western Kentucky University and seem to be very upstanding citizens. Jennifer works for the library at WKU and is originally from Nebraska. Ron works to fundraise for the school and is originally from Logan County, Kentucky. They seem to be very happy living in Bowling Green and talked highly of the community in general.
The other three people at the table were Luke, Abby, and Jason. They all attend Greenwood High School here in Bowling Green as sophomores. Luke is Madeleine’s brother and the son of Ron and Jennifer. Abby and Jason are the friends he brought to join us. They were quieter than the rest of us and seemed to have the same ideas and agree with each other more. Luke and Jason were much more low energy compared to Abby who was hyper and eager to discuss. They all seem to be very involved in their school. Luke swims, Abby performs in the theatre department, and Jason is involved academically, even talking about considering applying for Gatton Academy. From my perspective, their school seems like their own condensed community, which I pointed out in the conversation.
After getting to know each other a little bit, we introduced the purpose of the dinner and talked a bit about what Honors 251 is. We told them our three central questions and some of the interesting readings we have done for class. Madeleine and I also invited them to our upcoming deliberation for “Trust in the Media” and told them about some of our options. They agreed that there has been a significant decline in the trust in media over recent years because of reasons we touched on in our deliberation such as The President naming the media the public enemy or fake news becoming trendy and hard to recognize. We asked Luke, Abby, and Jason about their experiences with the news on social media and whether they checked the facts through other sources or just read and continued on with their days. The common answer was that they asked their parents what was true and what wasn’t, which is interesting because a lot of students said the same thing in our deliberation, as well.
When asked “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”, the table had very synonymous answers. Overall, people thought that citizenship was about being kind to others in the community, helping them out when needed. To the younger people at the table, that meant maybe volunteering when needed or participating in community events. To the adults, Madeleine’s mom and dad who are working members of the community, it meant maybe helping through the jobs they already do on a daily basis. Something I thought was particularly interesting is that Jennifer helped run her friend’s political campaign in her spare time. Her friend’s name is Jeanie Smith and she was running for Senate. Jennifer helped by going to different neighborhoods and rallies and talking to people to spread Jeanie’s message. Although her friend did lose, she mentioned she thought she still did great things for the community sharing her enlightening and positive message and doing her best to make a strong impact on the state for the better. In my opinion, Jennifer’s sacrifice of her time and energy for the betterment of the community and to help her friend make a difference is an excellent example of citizenship. For me, citizenship encompasses a wide variety of aspects in which community members are overall invested in what is going on in their area and wants to contribute to it in any way they can. I think things like voting, paying taxes, and following the law are just the minimum requirements for even truly being a citizen and it is clear that Jennifer goes above and beyond, exceeding the expectations of citizenship in this instance.
Because Jennifer and Ron talked so highly of Bowling Green, we wanted to ask them what they love most about living here. Ron began to say that he would absolutely recommend living in a college town for several reasons. First off, the spirit that Bowling Green has because of Western Kentucky University is enlightening. The community has a mutual support and love for the school and even I can see that after being here for only a few months. I believe Western encourages people to be good citizens, as well, because they see college kids needing assistance whether it be in study or extra food, and they provide opportunities for those in need. They rally behind the school and attend their events faithfully and donate to the causes they deem important, which Ron sees on a daily basis as he works in fundraising. Economically, the city is also pretty well-developed, too, with lots of restaurants and shops for citizens and students to partake in. Bowling Green in particular, though is not a big city. It is not necessarily too small or too big, which is very appealing to Ron and Jennifer. That’s also one aspect of Bowling Green I really appreciate. A college town offers a variety of jobs opportunities for all ages and really rounds out citizens and encourages contribution and involvement in the society in a positive way.
This topic made us consider maybe where we, the students at the table, might want to live someday. Obviously, it’s impossible to truly say where we might end up because anything could happen, but pondering what we wanted in a community was interesting. For Luke, Abby, and Jason, they all agreed that they would like to like in a city of some sort like Chicago or New York City. They wanted the busyness and excitement of the streets, and not only that, but they wanted the diversity in culture, too. They wanted to be around people different from the spectrum they see in Bowling Green and they wanted the enormous amount of opportunity for exploration a big city like that offers. For me, I feel like I would survive and enjoy the city or the suburb life, so it’s hard to say until my career path is final; however, I do enjoy the excitement, yet simplicity that a town in the medium offers. All I know is that I want to have pride for where I live. I want to be proud to call my town my home because of its upstanding, kind, developed community.
Before we ended dinner, I wanted to mention one of my favorite readings from class to gather their opinions or insight on it and see if they’d ever heard of it before. The reading was about the elephant and the rider and how typically people make decisions with their emotions and then justify their actions with logic. I wanted to know if they thought this rule applied to them and everyone agreed that they see themselves make decisions with their emotions more often than not, even if they don’t realize it at first. Even so, we all try to make the right decisions the best we can.
Overall, it seemed when addressing the central ideas such as “How can we live better together?”, the general consensus was that caring about your community and trying to contribute to it is important. Beyond voting and other civil duties, being kind and helping people when you can is what makes you stand out as an exemplary citizen. I really enjoyed the project and had a great time at dinner. I loved learning more about Bowling Green, the high school here, and different jobs at the University and the role they play. It made me appreciate the town and the school more and I am so glad to be where I am.