Claire’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Claire

I was so excited for this assignment all semester. I love sitting around the dinner table with family and friends, sharing thoughts and laughter as we eat a delicious homemade meal. My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place in Louisville, Kentucky on November 16 at my family’s house. There were eight amazing people present, seven related and one not. 

The first person is my Dad, Mark. He is a Director of Research for a Pharmacogenomics laboratory as well as a professor in the department of Public Health at the University of Louisville and the best dad I could have ever asked for. Next is my Mom, Beth, not present in the picture above because she is pulling more of her famous rolls out of the oven. Beth is a biology high school teacher and the kind of person who is relentlessly encouraging and is able to make any day the best day of your life. Moving around the table comes my little sister Kate. Although she doesn’t know much about citizenship at the young age of 13, she’s always there to lighten the mood and bring a hint of joy to the dinner table. She’s never met a stranger she couldn’t talk to or a food she doesn’t like. Next, my oldest sister Ellen, a Chinese and International Affairs major with the most intense drive of anyone I have ever met. I hope to be half of who she is one day. Then Sarah, the next oldest sister who is going to someday become an art restorer and is all in all my very best friend. My brother William sits next to Sarah. He is the lead roaster for a coffee shop in Washington DC and is the coolest person I know. He brought along his new girlfriend Maggie, whom none of us know very well. Maggie is from Seattle, Washington and works for a documentary film company in Washington DC as well. The gang’s all here, and so the discussion begins.

“Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” A couple of contemplative thoughts and a few bites of lasagna later, my family jumps right in. They all seem to agree on one major thing; outside of the legal or customary status given to an individual which identifies them as a part of the larger group, citizenship comes with a common alliance of tradition and belief in common ideals, as well as communal promotion of those ideals within that community. It is the recognition by the individual that the group is bigger than themselves and they have a responsibility to that group. Outside of values and ideals, my brother includes that it is also the responsibility to participate in dialogue that has a generative nature to the laws, taxes, etc., that you hold as a nation. Maggie interestingly interjects a bit of a different view point, meaning that as a citizen you recognize that you are a steward, so to the best of your ability you must both be engaged in what’s going on and advocate for the best use of the resources and greatest care for other citizens that your conscience deems right. 

Overall, I would say there was a general consensus on citizenship, each person around the table building off of what the individual before them had said. This topic led into a conversation surrounding the question; what is the responsibility you have to the community around you? Or do you even have much responsibility outside of what our system has enacted as laws? Which led into a conversation about community in general. My mom, being from Jeffersontown, in Louisville, where we currently live, grew up in a time where J-Town was a close-knit group of people where everyone knew everyone, and the norm was to take care of and make a point to know the people that are around you. She said it was rare to see someone that she didn’t at least recognize who they were. Even in the same exact area my siblings and I grew up in a different J-Town, a place less focused on the community but the small pockets of people within the community that unfortunately, tend to not interact with one another. My siblings and I are more a part of the surrounding areas and the city of Louisville itself than my mom was. We trade a larger area for a looser community. We all expressed that we wish J-Town would one day return to more of a small-town community feel; something that is already in the process due to recent improvements. In further contrast, Maggie grew up in the wealthy area of inner-city Seattle. A place where it is almost impossible to know everyone around you. Her idea of a close-knit community relied on her next-door neighbors and church family. And my dad grew up in a heavily catholic community in Pennsylvania, a stark contrast to the conservative Baptist area of my mother. 

Religion of our respective communities and childhood led us into the obvious differences we have found in our own travels between areas considered to be in the “bible-belt” and areas that are not. Eventually I brought up our readings and discussions in class that were related to mission work and the article “To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich. My brother, one who devoted most of his undergrad and graduate studies to sustainable development, and my older sister who has a deep interest in world cultures, and Maggie who has had an intimate view of special communities around the world through editing documentaries, and her own travels, jumped at the chance to discuss their viewpoints on the subject. Around the table we discussed the importance of knowing, as much as possible by an outsider, the intricacies of the culture you are hoping to aid, and ensuring that through the aid, you stay true to the culture’s beliefs and values and provide a manner in which the community can maintain and eventually develop further whatever improvement methods that have been put in place.

William brought up a good example. He told a story about methods of development within the coffee industry and the importance of ensuring that development is sustainable without outside support. Often times companies will send in people and materials for farmers in South America to start up a coffee bean plantation. At first the farmers are doing well and make use of the materials provided. However, eventually, it often becomes apparent that the coffee plant seeds sent to that area are unable to grow in that climate and so the farmers now have an entire industry full of workers, buyers, and supplies without a product they were able to maintain. This leads to the farmers becoming worse off than they were before the outside help came in. Not much argument followed that evidence.

Religion of our respective communities and childhood led us into the obvious differences we have found in our own travels between areas considered to be in the “bible-belt” and areas that are not. Eventually I brought up our readings and discussions in class that were related to mission work and the article “To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich. My brother, one who devoted most of his undergrad and graduate studies to sustainable development, and my older sister who has a deep interest in world cultures, and Maggie who has had an intimate view of special communities around the world through editing documentaries, and her own travels, jumped at the chance to discuss their viewpoints on the subject. Around the table we discussed the importance of knowing, as much as possible by an outsider, the intricacies of the culture you are hoping to aid, and ensuring that through the aid, you stay true to the culture’s beliefs and values and provide a manner in which the community can maintain and eventually develop further whatever improvement methods that have been put in place.William brought up a good example. He told a story about methods of development within the coffee industry and the importance of ensuring that development is sustainable without outside support. Often times companies will send in people and materials for farmers in South America to start up a coffee bean plantation. At first the farmers are doing well and make use of the materials provided. However, eventually, it often becomes apparent that the coffee plant seeds sent to that area are unable to grow in that climate and so the farmers now have an entire industry full of workers, buyers, and supplies without a product they were able to maintain. This leads to the farmers becoming worse off than they were before the outside help came in. Not much argument followed that evidence.

Further conversation followed surrounding themes of responsible stewardship of the things in which you have been given, social obligations, general life advice, and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Although there was only one person at my Kentucky Kitchen Table that I didn’t know well, I feel like I gained a deeper understanding of how those closest to me view the world we live in. It gave me a new perspective on what these particular members of society expect from others; a willingness to engage in society and be an active participant in things that affect the whole. I think this conversation relates to the entire theme of the class, answering the three questions; how can we live better together, how can we have more of a say over our own lives and contribute to others having more of a say over their own lives, and how can we solve problems? All of the topics that we have discussed thus far in class have contributed, albeit in a small way, to solving those wicked problems. 

All in all, I learned that by asking questions and listening to those around us, we can all learn a little bit more about one another and about our differences, uniting us all into citizenship under one nation, and one people all sharing the same planet. Maybe through this greater understanding, we can learn to live better with one another, and be better stewards of the world we live in.

Good people, good food, and good conversation. That’s a Kentucky kitchen table.


Harrison’s Kentucky Kitchen Table


On November 10th, 2018, I did not have my Kentucky Kitchen table. I went on a trip to Gatlinburg and planned on doing the activity on the aforementioned day. However, I completely forgot to have the conversation and was left scrambling for a way to host the event somewhere in Bowling Green. I’m from Louisville and finding a venue to carry out the activity was going to be difficult. Needless to say, I was stressed. However, I have a group of friends who live here in Bowling Green in a house off campus and they were kind enough to let me host the event there on November 14, 2018. Those in attendance from left to right are Hunter, Hunter, Jackson, and Alex. For the sake of clarity, the second Hunter will be referred to as Ricketts. Hunter is a Freshman who is an amateur body builder and wishes to go into seminary after college. Ricketts is a WKU Junior with hopes of going into Med School to be a surgeon. He also works as an EMT in the Bowling Green area. Jackson is also a Freshman at Western who did Cheer and Gymnastics growing up and describes himself as a listener. And last but not least, Alex. Alex is a nontraditional student who has come back to Western finish the last semester to get his degree in creative writing. Jackson, the cook of the group, was nice enough to cook a stir-fried vegetables and pasta meal for my Kentucky Kitchen Table. I would like to point out that while my table had 5 people of extremely different backgrounds and beliefs, we were all men 18-21 years old. Therefore, there is lots of overlap in our thinking and a very possible bias. However, I believe that the night was mostly objective and still led to extremely productive and enlightening discussion. Anyways, to start off the night I asked the only required question; Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizen ship mean to you? The general consensus right of the bat was freedom and patriotism. We talked about Patriotism and Freedom of the press and freedom to own guns and pursue life, liberty, and happiness for a couple of minutes. There was quite the “Merica” vibe to the conversation.  However, the group soon realized that we were talking about citizenship from the perspective of an American and only an American. From there, the conversation moved to a more universal sense of citizenship that was defined as abiding by a specific set of cores and values that your home country holds dear. In addition, we also saw citizenship as a way to identify with fellow citizens. Being in a citizen now gives everyone in that country a common identity. However, my favorite view on citizenship came from Hunter. He said that citizenship varies a lot for different people, but to him, citizenship was a sense of pride in one’s country and a desire to see it succeed and improve. We compared it to the marriage vows of in sickness and in health. No matter what state the country is in, you will stick around and do your best to improve it if you see citizenship as more than just birthright or words on a paper. We brought up an example that showed this divide between those who think that citizenship is just words versus representing something more. That example was the 2016 election. Many people threatened to leave the country if Donald Trump won the presidency. In the way that we defined real citizenship, those who threatened mutiny didn’t see citizenship as anything more than words on a paper. If they did, they would have stuck through a period of time that they disagreed with and done everything they could to make the best out of the situation.

From there, the conversation took a huge turn when someone brought up the Kavanaugh hearing. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the appointment of Kavanaugh as a justice, we decided that him being found not guilty was a very important moment in today’s world. With the increased prevalence of the #metoo movement, many people lost sight of innocent until proven guilty and the importance of due process. It’s impossible to know the total truth behind Dr. Ford’s allegations, and it’s possible that the jury got the verdict wrong. However, it was important because with many of the alleged rape trials, defendants were often seen as guilty until proven innocent which is completely backwards to how the United States law system works. This isn’t to say that women shouldn’t be believed. However, it is still important that regardless of the situation due process is still carried out the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty. From this conversation, we turned to rape culture and what can be done to combat the very real problem. We started the conversation by doing our best to define rape culture. What we came up with was that rape culture could be defined as a culture that largely ignores rape and attempts to treat the symptom of the culture -rapes- and not the actual disease which is the culture itself. Many people say that the way to treat said disease is to teach boys not to rape and rather than teaching girls not to get raped. While this may seem like a totally reasonable and simple solution and it probably works a little bit, we discussed how it might be harder to do than it seems. I asked the question “how many rapists premeditate a rape versus those who do it once in a lapse of thought. How many of those rapists lost consent after having had it and then just keep going?” Although none of us knew the actual spread between one-time rapists versus serial rapists, Ricketts used his background in the medical field to give us a real reason why people can sometimes “rape on accident.” He talked about how when someone is in a situation where things are getting “intense”, dopamine floods the brain which greatly suppresses the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is what makes decisions and understands social norms as well as the part of the brain that would be taught not to rape someone. It is also a large part of what differentiates humans from other mammals. So, even if that man had been taught not to rape someone, if in the moment they lost consent, the rush of dopamine would suppress the frontal lobe making it much harder to realize that what they were doing was wrong because the frontal lobe is suppressed, and the more animalistic tendencies would come out. To be clear, we all acknowledged that rape is always a choice that the man makes, and it is always possible to say no. We were just discussing the medical reasons why it is harder to say no in that situation.  So rather than teach boys not to rape, we proposed teaching boys to stay out of situations where they might make a mistake. I proposed this idea because it was one that my mom always taught me. She must have realized that the standard “teach boys not to rape” wasn’t the best way to teach boys and that there was better advice to give. She always told me to never get drunk around girls because being drunk around drunk girls is the perfect recipe for accidental disaster. After sharing this idea, the group liked it a lot and agreed that parents should not only teach boys not to rape but should also teach them how to stay out of situations that would lead them to do something they would regret.  However, we conceded that this idea would only work for men who rape once “on accident” and not for the serial rapists. Sadly, we couldn’t come up with a solution to stop serial rapists other than teaching boys how to stop them. The discussion was wrapped up at this point because of our limited time frame. However, although our discussion was relatively short, I was extremely pleased with the result. We all learned that the issue of rape culture requires a much more complicated solution than simply teaching boys not to rape. However, we also learned that there is still a lot that we can do as individuals to help cut down on as many rapes as possible. This conversation was really interesting because of how well it related to the elephant versus the rider reading we discussed. In the reading, it talks a lot about how people make decisions with their emotions and not their reason. That reading perfectly describes the issue with trying to teach boys not to rape. You can teach to their reason/rider all day not to rape and they may listen and agree. But in the moment, that elephant takes over and the reason gets lost. It is for that reason that teaching boys to stay out of situations is so important. If men can know not to put themselves in bad situations and there is never the decision of, “do I keep going even though I lost consent” the amount of rapes could possibly decrease drastically. Sadly there is no guarantee that this approach will work any better than the other, if at all, but we decided that this would be the best way to approach an extremely difficult and important problem in our culture today.

Addy’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

I had my Kentucky Kitchen table on November 12, a little bit later than I was supposed to due to the Minton Mold Move Out. It took place at my boyfriend’s mom’s house in Franklin, KY just 30 minutes down 31W. Even though my Kentucky Kitchen Table was belated, I still go to have a homemade dinner with insightful conversation on citizenship through the eyes of people other than myself.  I think that a homemade meal around a diner table is something I took for granted before college, because for the last few months I have been eating fast food in an overcrowded cafeteria with dime a dozen conversations about projects, exams, or university events. This project put into perspective the importance of a traditional meal around a dinner table uninterrupted by text messages or snapchats. I decided to put in place a rule that banned phones from the table so that there wouldn’t be any distraction from the conversation, and I think that it aided in focus while we were talking.  

Sam is my 19-year-old boyfriend of almost 4 years now, has one sister, and divorced parents. He attends the University of Alabama in Huntsville studying Aerospace Engineering. What he does is rocket science. Not in the joke form. I asked each person around the table how they would want to be described in three words. Sam’s are as follows: chill, old man, and cute. I guess I’m dating a cute old man.  

Also, in attendance was Sam’s mom, Kelly. She is 48 years old and just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer. She has lived in Franklin for basically her whole life and works at the family business, B&B tire, in Bowling Green. Kelly’s three words were caring, strong, and Christian. 

The next guest is David, Kelly’s boyfriend. He was Amish until he was 18 and then left to start his own construction business, Miller builders. He and Kelly met through their church, Church of Christ. I don’t know David that well. In fact, I just learned that he was once Amish while talking at the table about how they wanted to be described. The words he picked were hard-working, Christian, and humble.  

David’s daughter, Hannah, was also in attendance and is a nursing major here at WKU. She commutes from home in Glasgow, KY where she has been for 14 years now and is a freshman. She was adopted from Romania by David and came to America 4 years old. I have only met Hannah once before my Kentucky Kitchen Table, so I really didn’t know her very well. Hannah’s words  

My last two guests were Abby (Sam’s sister and Kelly’s daughter) and Lula, Kelly’s miniature poodle. Abby is 21 years old and works at B&B tire. Abby describes herself as determined, hard headed, and caring. She has always lived in Franklin and just moved to Bowling Green six months ago. Lula would just describe herself as hungry, tired, and cuddly.  

Overall, I think I had a pretty diverse group of people in attendance. Conservative and Liberal opinion different religious backgrounds, and different cultural backgrounds. I think that this was essential to the diverse answers that I received when having a conversation about citizenship. One thing that we all had in common, though, was the fact that we all relate our citizenship to small towns.  

When I first asked the question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” I could tell that they weren’t expecting such a hard question. It took a few moments for anyone to speak up but soon enough, Kelly did. She said that citizenship, to her, meant belonging to something that is bigger than yourself. I thought that this answer was insightful and true. It made me think that there is always somewhere for you to belong. Sam said that citizenship to him means learning and looking at our history and trying to find ways to make it better for ourselves and other citizens. I think that these two answers stuck out the most to me because it relates to two of our central questions of the class:  how can we solve problems and how can we live better together?  

The next question that I asked at the table was “What is the thing you love most about living where you do?”. I picked this question because the people that are from Franklin/have a connection to Franklin take a lot of pride in it because is such a small, but mighty, community. Abby answered quickly and she talked about how when her best friend from high school died, the whole community supported each other in their time of grieving.  She emphasized how instant the feeling of support was. I can attest to this– there is no sense of anonymity in Franklin. Which is both a blessing and a curse, as Sam said. David had an interesting perspective on this question. He said that when he got out of the Amish, he had all of this freedom that was overwhelming at first. But even though it was overwhelming, it is what makes “America feel American”- this sense of opportunity. He also talked about how he loves the opportunities he has as a self-employed, small business owner and how Glasgow and the surrounding areas support him. I chose this question because I feel a special feeling of citizenship to Franklin and recently, WKU. Hannah talked about her connection to WKU as well. She said that even though she is a commuter, she feels like she is a citizen to WKU. I think that this question was essential to this project because I feel like a lot of the things, we discuss in class are things that we don’t do well as citizens, and this question is a more positive way of looking at our citizenship in the United States, colleges, and small towns. This question relates to the “Love Thy Neighbor” reading to me because it has similar themes of how we should involve ourselves with those around us that need help. It is easy to think to ourselves “Well it’s not my family, so why should I concern myself with it?”, but that kind of thinking is what extends problems for years and years to come. But if we were all to feel the same way about our responsibility to other people and were to act on it, I think that we could make a real change in our society and as citizens.  

The next question I asked was if they thought they had an obligation to the other people in our community or country. They all had a unanimous decision- yes. They all had the same answer and it was that we all have a responsibility to be kind to each other. Kelly is also very involved with habitat for humanity and she says that that is one of the main reasons why she stays involved with it- because she believes that every person should have a warm and dry place to sleep every night. This idea very directly relates to a central question of the course- how can we help others have more say over their lives and how can we live better together. Sam brought up an interesting point about how when we pay taxes, we are helping other people afford housing, food, and clothes for them and their children. Kindness and respect for other’s needs seems to be the overarching theme here. While we were talking about this, we went on a tangent about the effect that social media has on kindness and their idea of citizenship. We all agreed that due to the anonymity of social media, there seems to be a lack of respect to other people. Even though we have increased communication with each other due to social media, we have somewhat lost the ability to relate face to face. We then started to talk about how, especially when elections come around, we forget how to be civil and talk about politics. Social media allows for a platform to say whatever you want on the topic. So even though we have a platform to speak up for what is important, the anonymity causes ugly conversation. When we were talking about this, it reminded me of our deliberations and how important it is to talk in person about social and political issues.  

I learned that even though people come from different backgrounds, there are similar themes throughout the answers here. A lot of it boils down to just wanting to be better. Better people, a better society, a better citizen. We related to all the central questions while eating banana pudding that day. I thought it was interesting that almost all the answers related to at least one of these questions, and they didn’t even know about them beforehand. They stretch to all areas of life, to all backgrounds, to all people.  

Overall, I think I learned a lot from this assignment. I loved getting to hear from all of the different perspectives and backgrounds and compare them to my own. I think it adds sincerity to the overarching themes of citizenship when multiple opinions from differing backgrounds participate in the discussion. This has been my favorite assignment of the year and I think that I will remember back to this dining room table and to these discussions often. Even though I have known some of these people in the picture for a very long time, I still learned something new about each and every one of them. It’s amazing what can happen at a Kentucky Kitchen Table. 

Dylan’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Dylan

            This Kentucky Kitchen Table was held on November 11, 2018 at my house in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The people who participated were myself, my mom, Courtney, my dad, Scott, my little sister, Sydney, my younger brother, Logan, and my mom’s friend, Michelle. My dad works at WKU and is the Head of the Department of Music. My mom works at the Presbyterian Learning Center as a preschool aid is a very caring person who takes care of the house. My little sister is always full of energy and is a second grader at Briarwood. My mom’s friend, Michelle, was a very fun person who was a really great participant in our discussions.

            The first topic we talked about was the question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” Everyone at the table had their own response to this question. My dad, Scott, said that citizenship means everyone in a community working together to make the community that they live in even better than it already is. My mom, Courtney, is a very strong believer in Christianity, so her answer was one of the commandments, in which citizenship means that one should love thy neighbor. Logan said that it was difficult for him to come up with a specific answer outside of voting, paying taxes, and following laws, because those are the things that he usually uses to describe citizenship. Next, we all talked together to come up with more things that could make up citizenship. We said things like being a democracy and everyone having an opinion, the background and history of the cities that citizens live in, as well as recognizing and appreciating each other’s differences, were all things that had to do with citizenship.

            The next topic we talked about was about the disrespect that high school teachers were receiving lately. I decided to make this a topic of conversation due to something I recently saw on the news. A teacher at Maywood High School in California asked the student to leave the classroom because he was not wearing the proper uniform. However, instead of leaving the classroom like he was told, he started hurling racial slurs at the teacher. The teacher than got so angry that he started punching the student, and it turned into a huge brawl until they were separated by the students and staff. This is probably the best example ever of how high school teachers are disrespected. On the news, various students and family members were on the side of the teacher, and everyone at the kitchen table said that they agreed. Regardless of the reason, that student had no right to act the way he did and we all said that he got what he deserved. Teachers are trying their best so that they can give us the skills we need so that we can have a more successful future. Everyone agreed that teachers deserve the respect of their students, and they should be treated that way. We thought that the teacher had every right to retaliate in the way that he did. Now, although I agreed with everyone else at the table, I said that I still thought the teacher could have tried to solve the issue in a more peaceful way. So while I think that the teacher should not have been disrespected in such a way, I still said that I thought he should still be charged for his actions against the student.

            The next thing we talked about was the question “What kind of person do you want to be?” My dad, mom, and Michelle are already adults in their mid-40’s, so they’ve already become the people they want to be. I never really heard what Michelle’s occupation was, however, she did tell me that she helped out with a lot of volunteer work for the clubs at Greenwood High School. She was someone who was willing to take her spare time assisting others rather than for herself, and she said she was really proud of herself for it. As I said before, my dad, Scott, is currently the Head of the Department of Music at WKU. Although playing the drums is what he is best at, he at least knows the basics to most instruments you can think of. Since my dad said he has always loved music for as long as he can remember, and that he has already become the kind of person he wanted to be. My mom is the same. When responding to this question, she said she has already become what she wanted to be. Although she left college early in order to marry my dad, she was trying to become a teacher. She now is a preschool aid working at Presbyterian Learning Center and is also a loving mother. She has also already become who she had wanted to be. For me, I said that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I have always enjoyed math as well as putting things together, and since it also pays well, I thought mechanical engineering would be the perfect profession for me. My brother, Logan, said that he was looking into music education. Just like my dad, my brother is a drummer and can also play the guitar a bit, so he said that was the thing he wanted to major in when he goes to college. Right now, my little sister, Sydney, says that she wants to be a dancer because she is currently taking dance classes and she seems to really enjoy it.

I thought our discussion was quite similar to one of the central questions for Honors 251 “How can people live better together?”. Just about everyone at the table thought of citizenship as a way for everyone in a community to live well together, and the topic we discussed about high school teachers needing more respect from their students helped to show one of the many ways people could live better together. Just like mentioned in “How We Talk Matters” written by Keith Melville and others, if we talk and work together, then we can solve problems better. I think that when people who do not know each other and talk to each other, and if they are able to embrace each other’s similarities and differences, then that would be one of the prime examples of citizenship.

During this Kentucky Kitchen Table, I learned just how important it could be to talk to people you have never spoken too people. When you talk with someone you’ve never spoken to before, you are reminded just how similar or different someone else’s opinion could be. There were sometimes when Michelle had a lot to say, and other times when she barely spoke compared to everyone else. I also learned that there are times when people can be a lot more passionate about a certain topic than one would originally think. For example, when we talked about how high school teachers deserved more respect, my brother, who usually doesn’t talk much, spoke much longer than anyone else did. He is currently in high school, so it makes sense that he would have a lot to say about it, but I was still surprised when I saw just how passionate my brother was on the subject. I was also surprised with how mature I was being. I interrupt people a lot because I often get caught up in my own worldview and shut down contrasting opinions as incorrect, but sitting at dinner with these people allowed me the opportunity to connect with them like they were family, thus opening my mind to why people believe what they do. With this, I think I will be much better at listening to what others have to say from now on.

In conclusion, this discussion turned out a lot better than I had expected it to. In my experience, forced discussions were always very awkward, and since I usually eat dinner silently on my own, I was quite surprised with how naturally everyone was talking. I think that having a good discussion with others is a lot more fun than eating all by myself while I watch videos on the internet.

Klay’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Klay

I hosted my Kentucky Kitchen Table in Bowling Green, Kentucky at my dad’s house on November 14th. I was accompanied by my Dad (Ben), my step-mom (Missy), and my step-brother (Blake), and my younger brother (Brentley). Due to the fact that I work 6 nights per week, it was difficult to find a time that would work with my family, but we managed to squeeze in a time that would fit the five of us that attended. I first explained the project that I wanted to complete with my family and they were soon very excited to host me for dinner, as well as anticipating the conversation.


My dad, Ben, is a local business owner in Bowling Green. He has owned two businesses over his life, and he specializes in textile care, such as carpet cleaning, rug cleaning, janitorial work, and fabric protection. He is 39 years old, and he grew up moving from state to state, finally ending up in Kentucky where he attended Russell County High School. He did not attend college, and he married my mom soon after he graduated high school. He moved to Ohio with my mom and moved back to Kentucky soon after to be a co-owner in a cleaning company, which led to him owning his own cleaning company. He married my step-mom Missy in 2014, and we have been blessed to have been welcomed as a part of her family, including my step-brother Blake.

My step-mom, Missy, has worked for the Medical Center since she was newly out of high school. She works for the corporate office area of Med Center Health, working directly under the CEO. She grew  up in Illinois, and moved to Bowling Green with her parents when her Dad moved for a job at the Corvette Plant with General Motors. She did not attend college but has risen in the ranks among Med Center Health due to her experience and determination. She is 49 years old, and has two sons, Tanner and Blake. She helps my Dad with administration work in his business due to her administration history and experience.

My step-brother, Blake, is 21 years old. He graduated from Greenwood High school here in Bowling Green after growing up in Alvaton, just outside the city-limits of Bowling Green. Blake has struggled throughout life, dealing with a progressive genetic disorder, Ataxia. He lives at home with my Dad and Missy, as he is unable to take care of himself. He struggles with walking due to the negative effects of ataxia on his balance. Blake is a fighter however, as his persistence is inspirational to those around him. When he turned 18, despite his dad’s wishes, he went and got a tattoo on his right bicep that reads, “Never Give Up.”

My younger brother Brentley is eight years old, and was mostly at the table for the food, as we told him we were going to be having a conversation for my class and that he did not have to say anything or do anything, but it was just what we were going to be doing. However, he was able to gather a general understanding of things that were important to his family members about society and citizenship, which I thought was a unique learning experience for him.

I, Klay, am a freshman at Western Kentucky University. I am majoring in chemistry with a minor in biology and a pre-medicine concentration, as it is my dream and career goal to attend medical school and become a surgeon. I was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, and I have lived with divorced parents since the age of two. My parents have both remarried twice, each on their third spouse, which I believe has taken a part in my trait of adaptability, as life has seemed to be ever changing as it has carried on. I work for my grandparents, who own a cleaning business that stretches across south central Kentucky. I clean a factory in Scottsville Monday through Friday, and I manage the cleaning of the Bowling Green Country Club Wednesday through Sunday. I attended South Warren High School until my junior year, when I moved to Glasgow High School, where I graduated in 2018.

Diversity was displayed at my Kentucky Kitchen Table by age, generations, life-experiences, differences in education, as well as differences in political views, differences in careers, and career goals of all in attendance. Due to my Dad and Missy marrying so recently, they do not necessarily share all of their views or many experiences that shaped the people that they are. Furthermore, Blake and I were raised in separate households, attended different high schools, and I am attending college while he is living at home.

The Meal and Discussion

I arrived soon just after leaving class on Wednesday to a home filled with food already prepared, including fried chicken, green beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, rolls, and mashed potatoes. Due to Missy having a red meat allergy, most of the meals that we have feature chicken or turkey as the main dish. Before the meal, I arranged the questions that I wanted to ask in the discussion, and I ran some of them by Dad, Missy, and Blake to give them an idea of what we would be discussing.

I began the discussion over the meal by asking the required question, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”, while also talking about how we deliberate in class and encouraging everyone to say what they thought and voice their opinions and feelings, as it was vital to the discussion.

My Dad, being a more dominant person who is usually first to offer an opinion, was the first to answer and really get the conversation going. He described that as a business owner, he felt that it was important to him to provide a service to the community, as he likes to feel that he is helping others and feeling like others come to him for something that he offers. He also talked about how he felt that an important part of citizenship was to have a job and work, providing for one’s self.

Missy, having a rather passive and laid-back temperament, agreed, as she has worked for the same company since she was very young. She added that she felt that it was important to her ideals of citizenship to be a hard-worker and a good influence to those around her. She continued, talking about the reason that she has stayed working with Med Center Health, and that loyalty and promotions were important to her.

Blake got his first words in, somewhat in contrary to what Dad and Missy were saying. He said that to him, working was not as important of a part in citizenship to him, but that he saw community service and giving back as the most important things to him. He talked about how he volunteers at Med Center Health once per week, and how it gives him a sense of purpose. He said that volunteering was another way that he like to inspire others, as he is not physically capable of doing much, but that he is still out in the community doing what he can.

I followed this question up by asking Brentley what he thought about what Dad, Missy, and Blake were saying, to which he provided a bit of comic relief, saying something like “I don’t want to have to work when I get older.”

After asking this required question, I asked a question which turned out to have short answers, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?,” which was almost answered in unison by them, saying “Duh, we live next to Kevin, Chrissy, and DeeDee,” (my step-uncle, step-aunt, and great aunt).

The next and final question I asked was “What kind of community do you want to live in?”

Missy was the first to answer. Rather than talking about what kind of community she wanted to live in, she instead talked more about what she loved about Bowling Green and why she has continued to live here throughout her life since childhood. She talked about how she feels that Bowling Green is just beautiful, mentioning the view she has over all of downtown Bowling Green through her office window. She added that she felt that Bowling Green was the perfect size in her mind, how it has small town outskirts but still has a mall and several other aspects seen in larger cities.

Dad answered next, adding that for growth of his business, he wants to live in a bigger city such as Nashville. He said that the reason he has stayed in Bowling Green, however, was that he liked the presence of small town businesses that were locally owned, keeping the money in the community. He has always been a huge football fan, and he added that he does wish that Bowling Green was big enough to house an NFL team.

Blake was the last to answer, talking about how he didn’t want to live in a community at all, and that his dream was to live in a cabin in the woods so that he could hunt all the time because it’s his favorite thing to do. He said that he does like Bowling Green because his dad lives on the outskirts and has a farm that he can hunt on.

Things I Learned

We wrapped up the meal on this conversation, as I had to go to work afterwards and needed to get back to campus so that I could rest up for class the next morning. One thing that I learned from my Kentucky Kitchen Table was that the careers or lack there of among my family members were huge influences upon their values and what they felt was important to being a citizen. I also learned just how much volunteerism meant to Blake, as I don’t get to see him very much or ask him about what he does at his volunteer job at Med Center Health. I hadn’t realized how much of an inspiration he was to the people at Med Center Health and how good it made him feel to be making contributions to the community.

I felt that the conversation related to the central idea of deliberation in our class for many reasons. I noticed how it was similar to the layout of our classroom, though smaller, that we all circled up so that we could have the conversation, and that everyone could get their voice and opinion in without feeling judged or attacked. I also felt that it related to deliberation because everyone had different experiences and lives that led to their opinions and feelings, but that we could all agree on the importance of citizenship and doing something in the community, no matter what it was.

Furthermore, I felt that the conversation related to what I have learned in class from the reading Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maas. As harsh as the reading is, it taught me that you never know what someone else has gone through, and not to judge others without knowing their story. Throughout the conversation, I saw a theme of everyone’s story being relevant to their opinions. The things that Blake has been through have kept him from being able to work a job, so working a job isn’t important to him, but helping others through his volunteering gives him a purpose and a feeling of citizenship. Dad and Missy get their ideas of citizenship from their careers and the ways they were raised, relating to the theme of Love Thy Neighbor in that they are a product of their story and their past.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this project, and I felt that it was my favorite thing that I’ve experienced in this class.

Chloe’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Chloe

My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place in Owensboro, Kentucky on November 16th.  I am from Marshall County, however my dads entire family is from Owensboro. I invited both my grandparents, a boy from their church, my Aunt Robin, and then her daughter which is the youngest of all the cousins. My Pop (grandfather) is 77 years old and I have realized over the years that he is one of the most opinionated people I have had the privilege of knowing. Of all the people at the table, he had experienced the most and was eager to share his stories and thoughts that went along with the questions I asked. He is a retired principal from one of the high schools in the area. My Mimi (grandmother) is 75 years old and works part time at a packaging factory just to have something the keep her busy. She always likes to see the best in people and during this project she kept quiet during many of the controversial conversations we had. Aunt Robin is 51 years old and works as an OBGYN at one of the hospitals in Owensboro. She loves to get in heated discussions and it is rare if she ever does not have something to say. The boy from their church goes by Kaleb, he is 20 years old and is currently working full time at Menards while taking some classes at the local community college. He also remained quiet for most of the dinner unless I asked him a question directly. The last person at the table was my cousin, Karsen. She is 13 years old, in her second year of middle school, and brought a totally different view point to the table. Although she is young, she understood much of what we discussed and loved to give her thoughts any time she had any.  

I started with the prompted question of what being a citizen meant to them. My Pop was the first to answer and he did so by talking about the different freedoms he has. He explained to me how he often takes his life for granted and all the things that just come so easily to him such as getting an education, starting a career, having a family and much more. He goes on to talk about how he feels entitled to many of the things he has because he felt as if he had earned them and deserved them. But when he steps back and thought about it, he had been given so many of the things that made him the citizen and person he is. My Mimi related the question to her family. She said that as a citizen and as a mother it was her job to raise a family of good citizens and people. It is like a spiral effect. Without her parents raising her right, then she could not raise her kids right, who would then have not raised me right. She talked about how it was her job to contribute to the next generation of responsible citizens. My Aunt said she had thought about it a lot and that she agreed with my Mimi’s take on it but did not think it always turned out that way because kids will go on to do their own thing and make their own decisions and it was not their fault as mothers if their children did not make the right choices. She thought her citizenship had to do with her always voicing her opinion, making those around her aware of things going on in the community and always trying to make our way towards solutions for the things that are wrong in our world.

When my aunt started discussing this, my immediate thought was deliberation. I told her how we had been having these in the class I was doing this project over, where we would discuss different social issues as a group and try to think of ways to fix the problem. I told her how I loved hearing everyone’s ideas and thoughts when we do this in class but was not sure if it was a feasible goal in the real world. My Pop said it was something he never thought would work, even though the idea sounded pretty. That people in the real world are too hard headed to sit down and discuss issues with people they may not agree with. So I asked him if he would, if given the opportunity, would he actually listen to what others had to say on hot topics such as gun control or homelessness if he did not agree with the people people he was talking to. It took him a minute to think about it and he finally said I do not know. He said he would like to think that he would but he feels like he would close off when speaking about things he was very passionate about such as gun control.

I feel like this conversation with my Pop also relates to our central question of how we can live better together. It is through understanding our strengths and weaknesses that we can accomplish this goal.  Understanding that each person is in some way different from us and that we hold different ideas and that is okay. Once we do this we can answer one of the other central questions of how we can solve problems. Solving the big problems in the world is not going to happen overnight but all the people at the table agreed it is something that can only be done if we first resolve the issues we have with one another.

We then changed the subject at the table and discussed some of the disconnects between generations and about how that causes many of the issues in our society today. My Mimi and Pop both talked about how when they were younger they ate breakfast and dinner every day with their families. They said this was something that was never up for discussion it was just expected. My Aunt, who is their daughter, said she experienced many of the same rules but it did not seem to be as strictly enforced as it was with my grandparents. Kaleb and I, both from the same generation, talked about how we ate dinner at the table with our families only when it was convenient for everyone. Kaleb said most of his childhood was crowded with sports and other extracurricular activities that made it almost impossible to sit down with the entire family and have dinner. I experienced many of the same things and recalled that having dinner as a family at the table was seen as a special thing that had to be planned or it rarely actually happened. My cousin Karsen said most of the time she ate dinner in front of the TV with her parents or sometimes even in her room alone. Her idea of family dinners were the ones she experienced during holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was during this conversation that I realized the variety I had sitting at the table in front of me. I asked them if they thought this played a role in why there was not much public discussion today. My Aunt Robin said she thought so, that since conversation was lacking in homes it had also caused conversation in society to dwindle as well. My Mimi talked about how she felt as if it had become a chore to make conversations with people and that it had not always been that way.

I started to wonder if technology also might play a role in this disconnect between generations. I was hesitant to ask what their thoughts on it were because I already knew my Pop’s opinion on technology. I was surprised when my younger cousin was the first to answer. She said she hated and loved her phone. Karsen said she was always able to reach anyone at any moment but it also was the thing that kept her inside on a pretty day or was the reason she was sad she had missed out on someones birthday party. My Mimi said this was something she had never experienced and even though she now had an iphone, Mimi said she hardly used it for anything other than returning phone calls or keeping in contact with her kids.

This conversation reminded me of the question how can we have more say over our own lives? I think more often than not we allow our phones and computers to get in the way of the things we should actually be focussed on, things we would not be concerned about if we did not have a screen displaying them every second of every day. Things have become too easy to access and so it takes away the importance of waiting on knowledge.

Overall, I learned many different things through several different perspectives during my Kentucky Kitchen Table project. My grandparents were more passionate than Kaleb and I in some areas and we were more passionate than them in others. In the end, I was glad to be able to sit down and discuss things that really matter with my family and new friend.    

My Pop’s famous double chocolate chip cookies.

Puerto Politics

By Amber Madison

Pictured from left to right: Carla’s husband, Carla, Christian, Kay, Cain, and Tim.

My Kentucky Kitchen Table meal took place on Monday, November 12, 2018. Due to a last-minute kitchen mishap at my parent’s house, we had to relocate the meal to our local (and favorite) Puerto Vallarta, about four minutes from our house and still in Bowling Green. There were seven people, including myself, in attendance, two of which were unexpected (but very welcome) guests.

The first guest was my mother, Kay, who grew up in Edmonson County and moved to Bowling Green just before I was born. She is the branch manager of the PNC bank on Fairview and has been in the banking business ever since she was 15 years old. My next guest was my father, Tim, who also lived in Edmonson County, particularly Rocky Hill, until he and my mom moved to Bowling Green. He works at Country Oven Bakery and has to be working on some new project around the house at all times. My next guest is my mom’s coworker, Carla, whom I’ve known most of my life and see every now and then since she and my mother work together. She is very lively and had lots of insight to add to this conversation. Though I have known Carla almost my whole life, I had never met her husband, but he proved to be a very interesting man from an intriguing background. He moved from Mexico twenty-two years ago without a bit of knowledge of the English language. When he arrived in America, he learned English just by watching American television shows and movies, which impressed me greatly, considering how much time and effort that must have taken. He even ordered his food and conversed in Spanish with the waiters and waitresses, most of whom he knows. Puerto Vallarta was his suggestion; fortunately, my parents and I also spend a lot of dinner nights at Puerto’s. After ordering our drinks, we were joined by Carla’s husband’s son, Christian, and his friend, Cain. Christian is 18 years old and is a senior at Warren East High School. He also works at Hollister and says that the idea of deliberating is very interesting to him. Cain is a junior and a football player at Warren East.

After being introduced to and getting acquainted with everyone I had just met and catching up with Carla, I started off the conversation by describing that a deliberation is a discussion about certain issues in order to work through a problem and then asked the required question:

“Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”

After some silence, stares, and careful pondering, the general answer around the table had something to do with representation in a diverse country, freedom to work towards a desired life, and common morals among people. Carla’s husband, having been to a country where these American ideals aren’t as prevalent, added something that put American citizenship into a better perspective for me:

“You don’t have to fear for your life.”

He and his wife explained that in Mexico, you really have to watch out for yourself. Carla added that you can’t even wear jewelry in most parts because you never know if it will be stolen before the end of the day. This reminded me of the Love Thy Neighbor chapters about Bosnian genocide and the horre overseas. I explained to the table that in our class, we have discussed these international affairs in Bosnia and surrounding areas and the overall theme that just because we don’t see the many gruesome details of what goes on in other countries doesn’t mean they don’t happen every single day. It’s also hard to even imagine similar cruelties happening in America because we haven’t experienced anything so harsh before. Carla’s husband agreed, saying that where he came from is nothing similar to how he lives today.

The next question I asked was, “What is the thing you love most about living where you do?”

Carla’s husband said that Bowling Green is a safe place to raise kids and not have to really worry about where they are at all times. We all agreed that although Bowling Green is the third largest city in Bowling Green, it is still fairly safe and hospitable. Southern hospitality was a large topic regarding this question. Carla talked about how she used to work somewhere where she spoke to many Northerners and explained that many of them were condescending and essentially very different socially from the many people she has interacted with from the South. My mom added that you can still go to Kroger and see several familiar faces while shopping, which received many nods all around. Though Bowling Green is growing at a high rate, there is still a small town feel that makes you feel at home no matter where you are from. At this point, my dad, Christian, and Cain were distracted by the football game on the TV screen. Another thing that Carla brought up was the local parks, saying that you don’t have to worry if you’re walking in parks like Keriakes and Covington late at night. She also included that the new additions and cleanliness of the parks are very impressive for how popular they continue to be.

My next and probably favorite question was, “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?”

I was compelled to ask this question because I was very curious about everyone’s stance, especially my parents since we don’t discuss politics too often. Carla responded first to this question, stating that racism and hate are so prevalent in today’s world that it seems like they could never go away. My dad re-joined the conversation, quickly agreeing with Carla’s position and adding that even though he disagrees with someone, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be friends. He further explained that everyone has their first amendment right to say and believe whatever they want to, but they can still get along with people who believe differently than them, which is part of the reason that different generations tend not to compromise or see eye to eye on certain issues. Christian added that people have become increasingly sensitive over the years and have lost the ability to disagree and truly be civil about the matter. He also brought up the fact that another issue in America is the divorce rate. About 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and those numbers are still climbing each year, and he would like to see that settle. People have seemed to become more independent and less loyal over the years. Another one of Carla’s close social issues is gun control. She and my father agreed that taking away guns is not the solution to this never-ending problem in America. Carla explained that the problem is the people, and this violent behavior starts at home. She shared an example of how others can be kinder and help end the problem that can ultimately lead to violence: at her son’s track meets, there is always a kid whose parents never showed up and didn’t have enough money to buy gatorade before running. Carla always bought this kid some gatorade because she felt like he needed a supportive influence in his life since he didn’t have one at home. She feels that moments like these at school, at work, and in life in general can change someone’s mindset and make them feel included. My father, being a gun-owner and concealed carrier, agreed again, stating that guns are not the problem and are often put into the wrong hands. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the idea of fighting guns with more guns, but I think we all agreed that background checks should be more strict and in-depth than they are now, which could decrease the chance of those with bad intentions receiving a weapon. After everyone had given their opinions on this question, I ended our deliberation with a final thought: as human beings, we are quick to judge and assume things about other people without knowing their background. No matter your beliefs or opinions about specific social issues or the party with which you identify, we are all citizens and should embrace our freedom to disagree and have different stances.

Before actually hosting and participating in my Kentucky Kitchen Table, the idea of this project was intimidating to me. I am not generally the talkative type and tend to listen more than speak, and the idea of having complete strangers participate in my school project seemed a bit strange and frightening to me. However, I found myself really engaging with this group of people, and I got a new perspective on most of the topics we discussed. I feel that talking about these deep and debatable topics can help you get to know others better than small talk, and I learned something new about every person that I didn’t know before dinner, including my parents. I learned first-hand that deliberations are a great way to keep a conversation civil but still controversial and interesting. We all even agreed that we should do this type of dinner again sometime.