I really enjoyed completing the Kentucky Kitchen Table Project which took place on April 4thin Bowling Green, Kentucky. There were six people including myself, three of which I did not know well, and we all sat and ate around the kitchen table together.
The names of the people who were there were Harper, Nathan, Kat, Ashton, and Hayley. Harper is a sophomore at WKU who is extremely involved in student government and is very passionate about passionate about politics. Kat prides herself in her involvement with her church and her dedication to the WKU Nursing Program. Ashton, a junior, spoke a lot about her passion for social justice, especially racial equality. She mentioned her involvement in numerous mission trips and her love for her sorority and its philanthropic events. Hayley was the other young woman at the dinner with us. She finds joy in her job at a daycare in Bowling Green, and she offered insight as to why she chose not to participate in Greek Life when we discussed community.
The conversation that occurred during dinner went extremely well and flowed efficiently. There were many different opinions, but despite this, everyone remained respectful. The group had many different ways of answering the first question. Around half of the table spoke about the importance of serving others as a duty of citizenship. Others mentioned speaking up for what they believe in and being a good example for future generations.
There were many different themes that came up during the conversation. The idea that our community should be accepting and supporting of everyone was often discussed as an expectation for society. The importance of communication was often a solution brought up when dealing with conflict within our communities which reminded me of our central question in class; how do we live better together? Some of them felt that their jobs reflected on their purpose, but others saw it as their duty in order to achieve success.
There was a long discussion about religion and its role in citizenship. There were a variety of religious and spiritual perspectives including Catholicism, Christianity, Agnosticism, and one person who was Baptist. Many people thought that their religion impacted their role as a citizen because it affects their political and social viewpoints. Others felt that religion is considered an interference and that people should do what is best for the community rather than strictly follow beliefs of their faith. The group agreed that religion affects how you treat others, and many mentioned the desire for these groups to be more accepting of others with differences from majorities.
I found what people had to say about the type of person they wanted to be very insightful. Each individual had something unique to add as to how they wanted to impact the world. I came to the realization that social issues influence what inspires others to make a difference. Often the answers to the type of person they want to be related to the issue that was closest to their hearts. Ashton spoke about how she wanted to be a person who accepts, loves and serves others. She said that she realized the type of person she wanted to be after her first couple of mission trips when she began to develop her passion for racial and ethnic equality. In addition, Hayley mentioned how she wants to be a teacher who kids see as a safety outlet and someone they can trust, and she then proceeded to talk about how her social issue concerns teaching rights. I enjoyed making this connection during the conversation and thought it would be a good thing to add to my observations.
I learned a lot during this entire experience. I did not expect for my eyes to be opened to new ideas, but I feel as though I will have a new perspective not only with deliberations, but also with citizen interaction in general. I became more aware of the intrinsic motivation that causes people to value the morals they do. Often members stated their opinion and supported it with experience that has caused them to feel emotional one way or another. I began to ponder the idea that people often believe the things they do based on their life experiences, their emotions and the people they surround themselves with. I never thought too deeply as to why people value certain ideas, but the Kentucky Kitchen Table Assignment taught me to explore the personal motivation that brings people to have unique perspectives on various ideas.
When pondering how I could relate my experience to what we have learned in class, many different ideas came to mind. Human interaction and morality can easily be related to the many discussions that have occurred in our class. The conversations at this specific dinner reminded me of the reading “How We Talk Matters,” because the entire project was dependent on respectful and empathetic conversation. The communication was extremely efficient because people were able to deliberate well. Despite there being various opinions, the conversation remained valid and reasonable. As mentioned in the reading, people often struggle to solve problems, because they cannot find any sort of common ground. I thought my group did a great job with understanding other people’s point of views while continuing to emphasize their values. I even thought about this article and how the conversation was a perfect example of community-based discussion.
Overall, the Kentucky Kitchen Table was an extremely pleasant experience. Not only did I get to meet new people and learn more about those I already knew, but I also gained new perspective on the ideas of democracy and citizenship. It was enlightening to see a group of people with different viewpoints converse in a passionate yet respectful way. It provided a sense of hope for me when thinking of our community as a future; maybe society will be able to come together and deliberate in order to solve bigger problems that are prevalent in the world at that moment.