Riley’s Kentucky Kitchen Table :)

By Riley

My Kentucky Kitchen Table was held in Bowling Green, KY on April 11, 2019. Elizabeth, the host, graciously offered up her home for me and other students and prepared a meal for us. Elizabeth is a professor at Western Kentucky University for Honors 251 and religion classes. Another guest at the table was also a professor at WKU but is in the history department. Her name was Jennifer and she was born in Canada. Another guest at the kitchen table was a graduate student whose faculty mentor was Elizabeth. She is from southeastern Kentucky but will be going to New York for graduate school. Autumn, a peer from my Honors 251 class, is a freshman from northcentral Kentucky and is studying Chinese. Another peer at the table was Shelby who is a freshman from southcentral Kentucky and is studying biology. The last but not least guest at the table is Victoria, who is Elizabeth’s daughter. 

            At the Kentucky Kitchen Table, since we were all strangers, we first introduced each other and tried to get to know where people were from and learn their background a little bit better. We talked about our hometowns and our respective family dynamics. With that, we discussed how family meals usually went. The graduate student talked that her family meals use to be more chaotic and the dinner table seemed to be a somewhat hostile area when she was younger. Contrastingly, she noticed how much more relaxing and peaceful the dinner table was as she got older and would go back home from college. Throughout the dinner, we also talked about the state of the university’s leadership. At the time, a dean of the university had resigned, and students did not take too fondly of the resignation. They wanted answers from the school as to why he had resigned. Jennifer talked about how proud she was of the students and faculty both for the way they reacted to the changes. She was proud of how the students approached the issue and only wanted answers, not making any accusations. She was also proud of how faculty was willing to voice their opinion and cared enough about the running of the university to participate in discussion. The discussion then moved to talking about citizenship. Everyone went around and talked about what they thought citizenship was in their own mind, or at least part of what a citizen is. One overall theme we discussed was how not to be pessimistic to the world. Everyone was unmotivated to speak positively (maybe because of the situation at school?) but also from the other things they all had witnessed and noticed from experience. 

            During the conversation, Jennifer asked me what I had learned or had taken away from the honors class that I am doing this assignment for. I answered saying one thing that stuck out to me was my thoughts on supervised drug addict facilities. I really had not given the idea of allowing addicts the space to use but also be monitored while using to make sure the person is taken care of. She was very surprised that the class had impacted me like that. Well, honestly more impressed and thankful for me to think that deeply. I really wasn’t sure if she was surprised because of my age or where I grew up. Either way, it somewhat made me skeptical as to how the older educated people view the younger generation. Through the conversation, I also learned how helpful the faculty of WKU have been to the students, especially the dean earlier mentioned. The graduate student was funded to go on a trip by the dean and another faculty member out of their pocket. It was cool to see how invested some of the faculty members are with their students and I was given a great example right in front of me. Furthermore, I learned about some of the struggles that the graduate student faced when she was younger and to see how successful she became. One big idea I took from it was when we actually discussed what being a citizen looks like. To give a slight preview of everyone’s responses, Jennifer said that being a citizen was that they should actively partake in community issues, just as the student body did with the leadership change at the university. The graduate student answered off my response saying that a citizen should learn the problems of the community and then use that information to approach those problems that a community has. In turn, my response was that citizens should be informed about their community and area before trying to participate in the community, because being educated is important. Autumn emphasized the importance of compassion in a community and toward the neighbors and fellow citizens. Shelby thought being a good citizen should be being a good neighbor. Also, Victoria thought that being a good citizen is about being kind to each other, but especially fair to each other. This was a very good point as that many times people aren’t treated fairly because of many things they can’t control. All of these are good things of a citizen but as I went back and reflected, I noticed that being a good citizen isn’t just that citizens “should” do those things but that they actually do the things mentioned. Citizens need to feel more responsibility instead of social laziness as they think others are responsible for the community. 

The discussion related to the class as it related to the “Green Fire, the Still Point, and an Oak Grove” reading. We talked about how it is important to be informed and to know the history of a community which directly relates to that reading. As a central idea, one of our central questions comes to mind: How can we solve problems? As we discussed, it is important to have conversations just as the WKU staff and students had with each other when it comes to complex problems. Also, through talking about citizenship, the other questions are involved as well, such as “How can we live better together” and “How can we have more of a say over our lives?” Being a good citizen involved being compassionate and fair to each other, which would lead to citizens living better together. Also, being a good citizen would hopefully empower the people to know they have a role in society. Back to the university example, the students and staff came together and had more of a say over their lives. Being a better citizen is about being better people. The Kentucky Kitchen Table was an event that allowed diverse people to come together and discuss topics that usually aren’t formally discussed. Through that, I was able to learn different perspectives and had to think of my own responses, leading to self-reflection. The Kentucky Kitchen Table was a gathering that fostered good discussion that desired to increase the potential citizenship of those involved. 

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