On April 9th, 2019, I hosted my Kentucky Kitchen Table at 624 East 11th Avenue Bowling Green, KY. At this address stands a beautiful blue house. Inside lives a number of girls ranging in age from 21-24. However, there was one guest boy who attended the KKT. The first person at the Kitchen Table was named Corinne. Corinne is from Louisville, KY and has an avid passion for dogs. In the fall, she will be traveling to Sweden on a Fulbright grant to do chemical research and when she returns, will attend Vanderbilt University for Chemical Engineering Graduate School. The second person at the table is Lauren. Lauren is passionate about loving others and hopes to work in sport management with refugees in the future. The third person at the table is Andrea. Andrea is one of seven children and comes from Romania. In the fall, Andrea hopes to move to Tennessee to become an Elementary School music teacher. The fourth person at the table is Kassidy. Kassidy, like Corinne is also from Louisville, KY. She has just returned from Quatar where she attended an Arabic debate and she hopes to be working abroad in an embassy. The fifth and final person at the table was named Lincoln. Lincoln is graduating in May with a degree in Mechanical engineering. In September, he plans to marry Corinne and travel to Sweden alongside her where he will find an engineering job. For dinner, I made spaghetti with red sauce. As we began to feast, conversation began.
I asked the first question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Both Lincoln and Corinne agreed that being a citizen means to participate and represent both the government and society in a positive way. A unique answer came from Lauren who said that a citizen is someone who cares about what is going on around them. A common theme to this question was that citizens need to participate in many different aspects of government in order for a democracy to be successful and efficient. Everyone around the table was agreeance in the fact that right now, America does not have great participation form its citizens especially in voting. They made an especial note to say that this voting deficit is prevalent in the youngest generation of voters. After discussion of the first question fizzled, I then asked, “What do you think are the best things about our world today?” Kassidy did a good job of putting everyone’s answer into one. She said that in today’s world, it is remarkable how we can share ideas and opinions within the click of a button and this is the difference between where the world was 40 years ago and where it is today. Andrea, being from Romania, said this was especially important to her. While she does live in the U.S. with her immediate family, the majority of her extended family lives on the other side of the world. Recent advances in technology have allowed her to communicate with them and make her feel like she is not missing out on their lives. The next question I asked was “What kind of person do you want to be in the future?” Lincoln responded by saying that he wanted to be someone who looked out for and provided for his family—an answer that really showed his character. All of the girls were in agreeance that they wanted to treat all people as equals no matter what background they came from or what beliefs they possessed. This was a good transition into the next topic of conversation.
It was evident that one of the most cared about issues by the table was the global refugee crisis. As every single person at the table either plans to be abroad in the future, or has been an immigrant themselves, the issue hit home. Andrea, in specific, spoke about how brave her parents were to move across the world for the betterment of their children. She said that she can only imagine what current refugees are going through as they battle difficult restrictions that her parents did not have to face. Corinne then spoke up about the refugee policies she had been researching in Sweden since she will be living there for 10 months in the near future. She mentioned that the Swedish government has implemented a much more thought-out plan for refugees compared to the U.S. For instance, refugees there are required to go through intense physical training because of the high fitness of the culture. The Swedish government feels that it is necessary to get refugees into shape because doing so will allow for a smoother transition of living among and getting integrated into a new culture/lifestyle. The table agreed that America’s refugee program is slacking in comparison to many of the programs installed around the world. In America, when refugees arrive, the moment they step foot on soil, they are setup for failure. There are no programs for refugees to become accustomed to American ways or to be assisted with attaining things such as a job or house. The American Dream is a fraud for many. Lauren brought up a good point after much discussion on the topic. How is America to pay for such programs? She hinted at the leadership of the country being poorly executed with money being allotted to the wrong areas. This spurred much political debate for the remainder of the dinner mainly with everyone in agreeance that our current president has made some questionable decisions in his presidency.
Overall, this Kentucky Kitchen Table was very valuable to me as I was able to understand different answers which came from different backgrounds on pressing questions. I was also very pleased that the conversation morphed into an in-depth analysis of the Refugee Crisis. It was neat to see a group of people so passionate about an issue. This relates to theme of our class because it is no secret that the Refugee Crisis is a wicked problem. It meets all descriptions outlined in the “Wicked Problems” reading. There is simply no clear solution to it in America and this was highlighted at the dinner table.