Anna’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

I held my Kentucky Kitchen Table on March 31th, 2019 at my friend’s apartment right off campus in Bowling Green. There was a total of seven people there: Amelia, Elizabeth, Gina, Kate, Lauren, and Tatum. I know each of these people on different levels and from different places. Amelia and Gina are the people I knew the least but have gotten to know them better through this assignment because of our discussions which have carried on outside of the classroom and kitchen table. Elizabeth is one of my close friends who is in another class of Honors 251 and I always have good conversations with her. She adds different perspectives to things that challenge my views and make me question why I believe what I do, much like this class has done. Kate is deeply rooted in her religious beliefs and had many insightful things to say during our meal. Kate lives in the apartment and is a religious major. Lauren is spunky, but considerate of what she says and also lives in the apartment. She is a biology major with a history minor. Tatum is thoughtful and always thinks of other people before herself. She lives in the apartment as well but will be going to pharmacy school next year in Birmingham, Alabama. Although we are all freshman and sophomores in college, the diversity came from our backgrounds and unique experiences we have all been through. I invited Amelia and Gina, who are in my class, to my Kentucky Kitchen Table in order to help them have a place and because I thought they had a lot to offer and add to the conversation. I think we all did pretty equal work and each gave our best effort to help facilitate the discussion we had. 

We had a variety of food including salad with strawberries, potatoes, and chicken for some people, but eggs for Elizabeth and Amelia since they are vegetarian. Gina led the conversation with the question, “what does citizenship mean to everyone?” and Amelia clarified by saying “other than paying taxes, voting, and obeying laws”. Kate responded first by saying she believed citizenship was being a member of a community and having obligations for that community. She said this can be local or global. This was impactful because she will be traveling to the Philippines for a mission trip this summer and wants to do mission work for her career. We all agreed that all of us that being in a community and being a citizen means being cognizant and caring of the things going on in your community. Lauren also brought up the point that knowing the history of the place you live and observing how that affects your community today. We then got into talking about how our history in America has changed our country today. Now our country is more about embracing where you came from instead of adjusting to American culture. Tatum talked about how it is important to encourage people to embrace their heritage in order to work towards the betterment of our society. Elizabeth chimed in saying the reason she felt the need to be a good citizen was because she is a woman. We were a little confused, but she expanded on this to say that she feels as though being a woman in America is a privilege. She said this because many women in other countries do not have the same freedoms that we do. Therefore, because of the privilege she has from her country, she feels the obligation to be a good citizen. This is a unique way of looking at citizenship, but definitely brought a different perspective to the table. After that, Kate talked about how global citizenship means fighting for the rights of people who are oppressed. From there, Gina asked the question, “what do you think are the best parts of our world today?” Everyone hesitated for a little bit and admitted that all of the worst parts about our world came to our minds first. Some of the positive things we came up with were medical advances and furthering human rights. We also talked about how people are becoming more aware of the problems in our world, such as climate change and global warming. We moved into another topic on immigration and politics. Kate discussed the current political climate, specifically, how politicians use inflammatory language. Adding to that, we talked about how harsh and disrespectful people are to one another in our society, especially if it is something they are passionate about. We agreed that our country could use more civility. We connected this back to practicing citizenship and said that communities and members of communities should encourage listening to differing viewpoints. Overall, the conversation was engaging and I got to learn from other people’s perspectives on citizenship.

I believe our diverse perspectives and opinions added to the depth of conversation over citizenship. I learned that when people are able to separate their opinions on religion and citizenship, we are able to have complex discussions that assess differing sides of a subject. I believe that the added element of talking about our religious views within our dialogue added to the perspectives given. The problems we talked about were all things that we could address by being good citizens. It is up to us as members of a community to fight for change. We all agreed on certain things but felt comfortable enough to share our differing opinions with the group. Something insightful that I took away from the conversation was that even if people have differing views, we can find common ground a lot easier than we think. The questions we were posing while eating was directly related to a lot of our class topics. Honors 251 is all about citizenship and how big of an impact or say we have over wicked problems in our society. As we got to know each other’s opinions more, we were more empathetic towards each other. This reminded me of the “Empathy Readings” we did outside of class and the discussions we had in class. Both times I talked about it, the atmosphere felt comfortable and like I was in a judgement free zone. This is also how it felt when we were having our Kentucky Kitchen Table meal which was calming for me. I feel like I know these six girls on a more personal level after this meal and have a wider view on the topics we discussed. 


Kerby’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Kerby

KentuckyKitchenTableI hosted my Kentucky Kitchen Table Project in my hometown of Bowling Green on Friday, November 2nd, 2018. The dinner took place at my home around our dinner table. We had to put two tables together to accommodate everyone. I was able to partner with my classmate Megan for the assignment. In total, we had 8 guests come to my home, with a total of 10 people in attendance. Since Megan is a vegetarian, I made sure that everyone brought food she could eat. John and Renee brought lasagna and garlic bread; Beverly, Eddie, Spencer, and Dalton brought salad ingredients; Kim and Owen made cream cheese corn and brownies for dessert; Megan brought french fries; and I brought tea and lemonade for drinks.

Megan is a freshman at WKU who is from Nashville, Tennessee. She is majoring in English with a minor in photojournalism. John is a retired professor who once worked for WKU. John is diverse because of his age and because of his health problems. He is also from West Virginia, as is his wife Renee. He and his wife  met when they were in college at Marshall University in West Virginia. Renee is also a professor at the community college in Bowling Green. She spends most of her free time volunteering with SKyPAC in town. She also supported her daughter’s high school activities by volunteering on many boards at Bowling Green High School. Beverly and her husband Eddie brought both of their sons to the dinner, Spencer and Dalton. Beverly and Eddie both have a high school diploma. They met their senior year of high school in Louisville, Kentucky. They used to work in retail and ran a small business for many years. They now work at General Motors Assembly Plant in Bowling Green. Their son Dalton is a twice college dropout who works at Kroger. Spencer is currently enrolled at SKYCTC to study computer science and become a programer. Owen, who is my brother, is a high school graduate who works as a security guard for the General Motors Assembly Plant. He is currently enrolled in school to become a law enforcement officer, and he recently joined the National Guard. He is diverse because of his youth and his political affiliation as more right leaning. Kim, my mom, is a single mother of three who works as an operations planner at a factory called Essity that has international reach. She has also recently gone through many life changes including her first child going off to college and losing nearly one-hundred pounds in the past sixteen months.

As people were introducing themselves, one common theme came up among many of the guests and that was the importance of doing service in the Bowling Green community. Many of our guests thought this was something that made them have diverse experiences. I asked why doing service in our community was important and Beverly said “what if it were me who needed an extra hand?” Many guests echoed these thoughts. We should help our neighbors in times of need. That statement reminded me of the chapter in Love Thy Neighbor about the Bosnian civil war. During the war, people who grew up right next to each other started killing one another overnight. The story the chapter tells is strikingly antithetical to the conversation we were having around my kitchen table.  I am glad to know that people in my community do not share this survival of the fittest mentality expressed in the reading, and they are willing to give a helping hand. However, John believed that service was just a requirement of his job. It’s something he had to do for work, and it doesn’t extend further than that. At the same time, he would help those who are in desperate need of it, but he does not actively choose to serve the larger Bowling Green community outside of what is required of him.

We also discussed the health industry and hospital bills. John was a professor in health education at WKU so he was able to contribute a lot to the discussion of how payment works in hospitals. John has also suffered from several health issues for the past ten years, issues that actually caused him to go into retirement. Many of the guests complained of how expensive everything is in the healthcare industry. Eddie even made the comment that some industries are not designed to make a profit, such as hospitals and universities. As a society, we push the numbers too much. That also brought up a discussion about workers rights since many of our guests work in factories here in Bowling Green. At Kim’s work, Essity, the company is planning to eliminate over 1,000 jobs worldwide to reduce costs. They care more about the bottom line than those who work for them.

When I asked “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” there was a silence that followed. Everyone had to really think about the question, which shows me they may have never contemplated it before. Owen brought up the caravan of immigrants that is moving through Southern America up to the United States. This of course led to a discussion about immigration and President Donald Trump’s latest ramblings on changing the fourteenth amendment with an executive order. But then  the conversation took a turn and we started to have a discussion of what it means to be a good citizen. It echoed much of what we discussed in class about citizenship last Thursday. John said that as long as you work and contribute to our society, he does not care how you get here or what your background is. He added that before World War II, citizenship was not even something the government kept track of. If you crossed the borders into the United States and felt like a U.S. citizen, you were one; that was all it took. We have only recently developed this high standard of citizenship in which people must pass a citizenship test and live in the United States for so many years before they can become a U.S. citizen.

Citizenship is helping the people around you. It is knowing your neighbors and lending them a hand when they need it. It is having dinner with friends and talking about more than what is going on in the world. It is about learning how your friends met each other, or how they met their spouse. It is about discussing your past selves, where you grew up, or where your family is from. It is about how you were raised and how that has impacted your worldview. It is about being able to disagree on a subject while also being able to find a common ground in that subject or on anything. It is about recognizing that all humans are equal, despite what country they are citizens of or how they obtained their citizenship in our country.

After the dinner and as we were cleaning up, Kim was discussing with Megan and I about how nice it was to host this dinner. We each enjoyed having conversations we otherwise would not have had. We were able to discuss and talk about issues in a civil manner, and we were all tolerant of disagreement. We were able to find common ground on most anything. However, even if we could not find that common ground, we still respected the opinions of the people around us. Kim made the comment that we should do dinners like this more often because it is important to talk about how we have been shaped by our country, but more importantly how we can shape our country. This reminded me greatly of chapter ten in “The Impossible Will Take a Little While” called Reluctant Activists by Mary Pipher. This is the chapter about the Keystone XL Pipeline that the corporation Trans-Canada planned to cut through the midwestern United States to build, destroying homes and farmland along the way. Ms. Pipher hated the thought of the pipeline running through her area, so she invited some friends to her home to discuss how they felt about it. They gathered around her kitchen table and just talked with one another about what they knew in regards to the pipeline. They agreed that they did not like it and that action needed to be taken, so they made a game plan and met again and again. All it took to put an end to the Keystone XL Pipeline were a few conversations around a kitchen table and with people from their hometown. These regular people started a movement.

Before the dinner, I knew the names and faces of everyone invited. However, after having the dinner, I know them on a much more personal level. I know how they met their partner; I know some of the struggles they have experienced; I know more about their beliefs religiously and politically, but most importantly, I know how to keep having those conversations. That’s what this project was all about for me. It was about learning how to have and seek out those conversations. When problems in my community arise, I am better equipped to speak with my neighbors about how they feel on an issue and taking their thoughts/opinions to develop collaborative solutions.

Megan’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Megan

My Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in Bowling Green, KY on November 2nd, 2018. I partnered with Kerby and the meal took place around the kitchen table at her house. Including myself, ten people were in attendance. The people in attendance were Megan (myself), Kerby, John, Renee, Beverly, Eddie, Spencer, Dalton, Owen, and Kim. Kerby is a freshman at Western Kentucky University like myself and she is double majoring in International Affairs and Arabic. Kerby was the only person in attendance that I knew, and everyone else in attendance was a stranger to me before the meal.  John is a retired former professor at Western Kentucky University, and is married to Renee. Renee is a college professor married to John, whom she met in college. Beverly and Eddie are a married couple that met when they were in high school, and both are employed at the General Motors Assembly Plant in Bowling Green. They also previously worked in retail as well as owned a small business. Spencer and Dalton are Beverly and Eddie’s children. Spencer is studying computer science in college and wants to work in programming. Dalton is employed at Kroger and has dropped out of college twice. Owen is currently studying to work in law enforcement, and is Kerby’s brother. Kim is Kerby’s mother, and is a single mother working for a company called Essity. There was definitely diversity present through the occupations of each person in attendance, as well as religious and political identity. The political opinions of those present certainly differed, as Owen specifically identified himself as more conservative and right-leaning, whereas others in attendance identified as more liberal or left-leaning. There was also diversity present in the age of those in attendance, as several of us were college-age students, while some were older and parents, and some were retired. The generation gap between the people at the dinner obviously gave different perspectives on the issues and topics we discussed.

After we went around the table with initial introductions so everyone knew who everyone was, we jumped into a conversation surrounding service within communities. The main question we discussed was “What does doing service in your community mean to you and how important is service to you?” I brought up my personal experiences, which with my religion and private school history, included a service requirement – a certain number of hours each year I was required to complete in service to my community. I told the group how originally, I viewed the service requirement negatively and as an obligation, believing that having to complete the requirement was a drain on my time and energy, while I already had so much going on in middle and high school. However, after working with organizations within my community like Second Harvest Food Bank and Cottage Cove Child Ministries, and getting to reap the personal rewards of having served my community, I began to view the requirement not so much as an obligation, but an opportunity to give what I could to the local community, like my time and energy. Renee mentioned volunteering her personal time to the local community through things like SKyPAC or in her daughter’s school, and how it benefited her. Both Eddie and Beverly made the point of spending time and energy in service because of the idea of “What if it were me that needed help from someone else?” Beverly specifically noted that if she were in need of help, she would want for someone else to be so giving of their time and energy that they would be willing to help her or her family if they were in need of it. She said this was the driving force behind her doing service in the area, because she very much empathized with those who were being helped by this kind of service. It reminded me of our class discussions regarding empathy, and how the general consensus that empathy was important and necessary to enact change on both smaller and larger scale issues. I think everyone at the table would agree with what we discussed in class, and that empathy is something that is needed by everyone in different situations, and especially to help tackle problems affecting those within the community. People definitely need to have a common ground and understand each other’s struggles in order to be able to effectively serve each other and find solutions to issues.

We talked about the situation of the caravan of immigrants coming to the Mexico-US border from Central America while discussing the meaning of citizenship. We first wanted to discuss the traditional meaning of the word “citizenship” and what it meant to each of us within the legal realm (such as through taxes, voting, and following laws). Most of us agreed that “citizenship,” even in its traditional sense, could be achieved without and is not entirely dependent on a legal document that declares one a citizen. Most of the people who are illegal immigrants in the country, we agreed, are here to make a living for their families, abide by the same laws as all other citizens, and live normal lives in a country that provides opportunity for them, whereas not every country does, and that is something we as a country should celebrate to some extent. The consensus seemed to be that those who stereotype illegal immigrants as criminals and gang members are wrong and making broad, unfair generalizations about a group of people. Beverly and Kim brought up the fact that there are criminals and gang members of every race, nationality, and religion, and that committing crimes or acts of violence cannot simply be attributed to a single group of people. This part of our discussion, I believe, directly correlated with our discussion of the same matter in class on Thursday, November 1, when we discussed empathy and the readings from the “Beyond Hope” section of The Impossible Will Take A Little While. We discussed both at our dinner and in class how the wonderful thing about America is that unless you can trace your roots back to the Native Americans who inhabited America before anyone else, everyone and their family was an immigrant at some point, and they did not always become legal citizens and acquire a visa like we expect immigrants to do now. We agreed that there should be some standard of becoming a citizen in the country, but judging groups of people seeking a better life in America is the same as judging all those that came before you.

We also briefly touched on the topic of the cost of medicine in this country. We generally agreed that medical bills can become almost unnecessarily or outrageously expensive, and unfortunately many in this country do not have the means of paying expensive medical bills like this or even receiving medical treatment due to the cost, especially if they are lacking insurance that might cover a large portion of the expenses. This reminded me of the readings on the opioid crisis, as many dealing with opioid addiction do not have the funds to pay for rehabilitation or programs that might help them to get clean, and that a large portion of those with an opioid addiction developed that addiction after being prescribed a high dosage of extremely addictive painkillers and strong opioids. We discussed how the medical industry largely seeks to profit almost more than necessary or excessively off the bills being paid by those who, most of the time cannot afford it or it will be in financial trouble because of it. This reminded me of how, in the readings, we learned that the pharmaceutical industry makes a large profit off of prescribing the opioids that many become addicted to, even if those who are prescribed them could get by on a lower dosage or a different, less addictive painkiller. Everyone’s individual response to this idea reminded me of how the class regarded the issue of the profit being made off the opioid addiction.

After we brushed up on the traditional definition of citizenship, we all shared what citizenship in the nontraditional sense meant to us. Kim stated that to her, citizenship was being able to contribute to your community in one way or another, whether it be through love, compassion, time, or energy. I agreed and stated that to me, citizenship is making oneself engaged, involved, and aware of the world around them. We agreed that we all have a responsibility towards each other to learn about the people and history within our community, as well as to be involved with what takes place in our surroundings. There is no wrong way to be a citizen, just as long as you act. Regardless of a person’s identity, especially a person’s cultural identity and nationality, we are all called to be citizens through how we act. We discussed how our individual callings and occupations related to that, and how each person’s job on this earth is different but important all the same as long as we have a job to do on this planet and do it well. We agreed that to us, citizenship meant being an active member of not just our country, but the entire world around us. We remarked how important and great it was, as people who may not even know anything about each other, to put aside our differences, come together, and just talk to each other. We spend so much time in our own bubble, that we are not actively engaging with the people who are even just a short distance away from us within the community. It was so nice to be able to have a discussion with each other without letting all the divisive elements of our current society and political climate get in the way. We were all able to just sit together, share a meal that everyone individually contributed to, as we pooled our strengths together, and share in our collective humanity. That was what was so important to me about this meal. I felt like I was doing my duty as a citizen by engaging with those around me, even though it may have been uncomfortable at first and not something I was used to doing, especially with strangers. Throughout the whole meal, nobody was on their phone, distracted by work or school or our personal lives. We put away the distractions, and focused in on each other. It felt so good to have shared a piece of my life with people I didn’t know, but was glad to have met by the end of dinner, and to share in a little piece of everyone else’s life as well.

Through this assignment, I learned so much about the importance of being a part of the community you live in, even if it means stepping outside your comfort zone to share our lives with each other. I learned how important it is to step away from the distractions and divisive nature of our society and just have a conversation with people, respecting their opinions, as they respect yours. There were moments when we did not all agree with each other, but it was still important to all of us to hear everyone’s viewpoint and acknowledge it, even when it differed from ours. Being around the kitchen table together taught me the importance of being a part of the collective humanity in the world and recognizing that everyone else is, too.

(Kim is not pictured as she was the one who took the photo)


Madeline’s Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Madeline


My sorority sister, Anna Kate and I pull up to the house in a new subdivision in the city of Bowling Green, that we plan on doing the Kentucky kitchen table assignment at. My roommate Jenna is putting the finishing touches on her vegetable dish while her boyfriend Carter garnishes his mac and cheese. His friend Damien, whom I have never met has brought soda and is pouring some into glasses as Anna Kate settles in and I sear the chicken that Anna Kate and I had brought mostly cooked.

Anna Kate is a sweet blonde haired girl who I have met only a handful of times. She was in my new member class in the Fall of 2017 with my sorority Delta Zeta. Anna Kate is somewhat more southern than the rest of us, evident in her double first name. She’s sweet and a little meek around new people but loves to have a great time no matter what the event. Carter is a large man, a former football player. He’s a gentle giant. Wouldn’t hurt a fly but at 6’2” and over 200 lbs he doesn’t have to do anything for people not to challenge him. He’s boastful and loud at times but thoughtful and the jokester of the group. Jenna jokes he would have made a great jester in medieval times. Jenna, Carter’s counterpart is small in comparison. She’s barely 5’2” but she’s feisty and very opinionated. She’s my best friend and complements Carter and I with her swift comments. She stirs the pot every once in a while and keeps life interesting. Damien turned out to be more observant like me. He’s lanky and cool. He and I set idly listening to the conversation as dinner was being prepared. Throughout the dinner he laughs and smiles before throwing his head back and sighing before answering every question. In a way it’s comforting. The unspoken language of a wallflower when asked to speak.I, myself, am a wallflower type of person. I enjoy being in a social setting just not in the spotlight. My legal first name is Madeline but almost no one calls me by that. Usually I go by Madie, Anna or Smiles depending on who I’m around. I’m fine with Madeline but my friends and family seem to not be. I’m brutally honest at times with candid quips here and there but most of the time I’m fatally awkward, unsure of myself, clambering around in my lanky off-balanced body. My hamartia is my avoidance of conflict yet I’m loyal to my ideas and like to throw my opinion into the mix.

Everyone fills their plates and sits down at the table where a few pictures are snapped and we begin. I start by asking the required question: “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following the law, what does citizenship mean to you?”  Carter answers first talking about being active in the community and everyone builds off of that with Anna Kate adding that we’re protected by the laws and get to take advantage of a multitude of amazing opportunities that come with our US citizenship. Jenna and Damien have a harder time and think on it for a while. Jenna adds that being a citizen means being a part of a bigger community and loving all those that are a part of it even if you aren’t friends with them. Damien talks about the duties citizenship imposes such as being informed about the political happenings within your country and being responsible with the opportunities you have. We all discuss with him the responsibilities we have to our country and if those born into citizenship have more or less responsibilities as citizens.

Between bites of food I ask if anyone had dinners around the table with their family growing up and the impact they think it had on them. Damien turns out to be the only one of us who had everyday dinners at the table with the whole household. Carter had a once a week dinner at the table and the rest of us almost never had family dinners. In my household I am the only person who has used our kitchen table for a meal for over a year. Anna Kate’s family didn’t eat together because the whole family was always so busy with dance lessons and recitals and acting classes. They simply just didn’t have enough time to eat a meal at a table. We all agree that eating at a table together is helpful during development and that we would have all like to have meals like Damien’s family did.

Throughout the evening we discuss career choices, environmentally sustainable food, homelessness, buying local, where we all came from, and fond memories with neighbors and friends. Growing up in Kentucky we all had those barefoot in the backyard amongst friends and lightening bugs stories. We also playfully argue with one another if its lightening bugs or fireflies. (it’s most definitely lightening bugs) It’s interesting to see how everyone grew up and the different perspectives it brings.

Carter and Anna Kate had everything they could possibly desire growing up as children of well off households, Jenna and Damien came from middle class households, and I came from a household that was under the poverty line most of the time.  Damien talked about being black and how that has affected how he has seen situations. We discussed Rankine and he explained his encounters with racism and we all discussed solutions. It was interesting to hear about and with the rest of us being white we found it hard to empathize fully. It was a depressing topic but enlightening.

When asked what they think they would give out as advice to their neighbors a few jokes about neighborly issues arise but everyone generally agreed that they wished their neighbors were more open to being friends and they wished to be like in the movies where the neighbors all hang out and have bonfires and dinners. We talked about how American culture has made being close with neighbors a long lost dream. People used to sit outside on porches talking with one another and now people are always on the go or they’re inside watching television. Someone talked about how people just care about themselves now and after some discussion we realized that was quite true.

I learned a lot about how different opinions can come together to form a call to action among a group that better situations that we all see but haven’t done anything about. I also realize how much of an impact our childhood and upbringing has on us. We look at things from an epistemological viewpoint based on our experiences and have to link them together with similarities to relate to one another. From this dinner alone I realize that experiences are the biggest foundation to our opinions. We are either scorned or elated from them.

Jenna wants to be a FCTs education teacher (basically a home ec teacher) because she doesn’t feel like she was prepared for life outside of her parent’s home while going through the public education system, Carter wants to go into broadcasting because he wants to share news with everyone he can to keep them informed and joyful at times, Damien wants to become an actor to bring joy into the world, and I want to go into healthcare administration to make a difference in the lives of the sick. Each of our careers has its place in the world. Without all the different facets we wouldn’t help humanity live better together. You can make a sick person healed but that doesn’t bring joy to them, you can prepare children to avoid food poisoning but life doesn’t always go as planned.

It was interesting to get so philosophical with these people that I now all consider friends after our meal. Jenna and I are realists but Carter and Anna Kate have dreams of the world being perfectly harmonized someday. Damien just wants to provide laughs through the pain.  Like we have discussed in class and gathered from our reading, life doesn’t go as planned all the time but we can’t numb the pain without numbing happiness. I think that concept rang true for everyone in the group. We all agreed that life has thrown us around but we wouldn’t give up the pain because the beauty of life is derived from the pain.

Overall, I walked away with a new sense of purpose in life and a reminder of my duties as a citizen. I realized pain and happiness are on scales and sometimes they tip back and forth but they will always even out in the end. We have to buckle ourselves in and be ready for anything to be thrown our way to become the type of person we want to be which as Damien and Jenna pointed out, is ever changing as we get further and further into our journey. According to Carter, you have to pick and sort through the rubble and decide what’s worth fixing. Anna Kate finished off by adding that to do great things and be great people we have to love one another and help those around us stranger or not. She really thinks we are obligated to donate our time to our community and country and I think that’s important. As we all started to clear our plates, we decided we were all going to find something nice to do in the coming weeks before we pack up our stuff and head home for the summer. So if you see two girls picking up trash on the side of the road this week just wave. Jenna and I will probably wave back.

Kentucky Kitchen Table- Charlie

By Charlie

This is the report of my Kentucky Kitchen Table project. My meal took place in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The total amount of participants in this dinner discussion is five, including myself. Their names are Tobi, Brandi, Avery, and Amelia. Tobi is a young adult who can be described as free-spirited, humorous, creative, and places a big emphasis on wanting people to be more understanding. Brandi is an accomplished single mom with three kids who can be described as hard-working, determined, and places an emphasis on sharing and teaching your talents with others to work together. Avery is a kid anyone would describe as lively, silly, and just plain excited about life. She puts an emphasis on being the best person you can be. Amelia is a kid you would describe as full of curiosity, playfulness, and joy. She puts an emphasis on being kind to others. Avery and Amelia are close sisters who work as a unit, so many ways to describe could be interchanged with the other. However, they have their differences, which should during our discussion during our meal together.

The first aspect of the conversation was everyone’s answer to the question, what does citizenship mean to you. This is where differences became apparent in personalities. Each member of the group had a different personal interpretation of what citizenship meant to them. This is an obvious example that citizenship is a fluid concept that can vary in meaning and is subjective. Some basic themes that were mentioned consisted of understanding, uniting, kindness, focusing on strengths, and providing a welcoming atmosphere no matter where you are. Obviously, everyone agreed that being a citizen is an inherently positive position that everyone is granted. These themes really represent what citizenship should mean to everyone, in my personal opinion. These are ideals that are ideal for any good, healthy community and are what every community should strive towards. This part of the conversation really opened my eyes to other descriptions of citizenship beyond just picking up litter and voting. It showed me how just having a good attitude to those around you, no matter who, and wherever you go can make citizenship be a much broader concept in my eyes. Moving on from individual citizens, I wanted to ask everyone what their opinion was of what citizens make up as a whole.

The next question that went around the room was what kind of community do you want to live in? These responses were pretty similar in nature, in that, they were all worded a bit differently, but all contributed to the same idealistic version of a good community and what it could look like. My general idea of what a good community would look like consists of people working together, not being afraid to ask for help, seeing the best in one another, and embracing everyone’s differences. The answers from everyone else around the table agreed with my ideas and added a few of their own. General themes that were passed around the table included friendliness, deliberation, acceptance to change, safety, prosperity, and togetherness. We all then discussed why these values allow a community to prosper compared to a community that might be somewhat lacking in them. We came together to agree that these qualities allow people to accept one another for who they are and provide help where they can, while communities who do not accept other’s differences and do not want to lend a helping hand are setting themselves up for failure due to an inherent lack of cooperation. I asked them if Bowling Green is a community that meets their standards for what is considered good. They all agreed that it is not perfect by any means due to not every citizen having good ideals, but that the people they interact with are good citizens in their eyes and it always potential to get better. I then wondered what type of citizen they all think themselves to be, either now or in the future.

The next question that I asked everyone was what kind of person do you want to be? This question also elicited varying responses from my participants. I noticed that when every person paused, thinking before they answered my question, it seemed to be like they were weighing all the different attributes they considered positive influences to have to see which ones they wanted to describe their future self. I mentioned humility and the other adjectives they used consisted of friendly, courtesy, kind, helpful, welcoming, disciplined, organized, likeable, and loved. We all agreed that these were great attributes for anyone to have or wish for. I specifically was interested in any differences between Brandi, Avery, and Amelia’s answers due to the age difference between them all. Brandi wanted her future self to be more understanding, helpful, and works well with other people. Avery and Amelia focused more on the career of their future self and wanted that to be an avenue for them to help other people, using words like kind, loving, and role model to describe the hope of their future selves. The transition I wanted next is to other citizens.

I then asked them all what advice they would give to our neighbors? They asked me to explain what I meant by that question and I summarized it as what tips you would give someone moving to your community to be as easily integrated as possible. The consensus that everyone reached was advice such as being friendly, talk to other people, and try to help out where you can. From there, we discussed how we socialized with the neighbors we have in our communities. Brandi mentioned that here friends were trying to show and teach each other different skills that they each have such as cooking or gardening. Avery, Amelia, and Tobi mentioned that they are social with other people their age whether it be at school or meeting up to get coffee. I mentioned that I am involved in a club on campus that I use to meet and talk with people.

What I learned from this experience was different takes on community and self from varying ages and life perspectives. Brandi could give a view as an adult with life experience, Tobi and I as young adults figuring out where our paths in life will take us and which to choose, and Avery and Amelia as young kids who are still taking in life and learning new things every day. I also learned a more concrete view of citizens and how they make, form, and build a community. As well as how people can improve themselves and their community together. What I really think that ill take away from this dinner discussion is that, regardless of age, every person wants to see things in a positive light and help things improve. Everyone wants to be involved in their community, help one another succeed, and find what it is that they can contribute because that is how we grow as people but also as a collective unit. This dinner was an awakening that this should happen more often. Instead of everyone glancing at their phones or just discussing their day, people should make an effort to really discuss how they view their surroundings including the problems that they face. By actively communicating on a daily basis with your family unit, you open yourselves up to helping one another find solutions. Multiple heads are always better than one.

This project and its experience relates to what I’ve learned in class in multiple ways. For one, it reminds me of “How We Talk Matters” by Keith Melville. As stated above, I believe in the power of deliberation. Who would disagree that discussing things in a sit-down, casual or formal wouldn’t help solve problems? When was talking out things ever not helped? This is not a foreign concept to me and it is not lost with the younger generation. I, for one, will make sure that people my age will discuss problems, solutions, and varying opinions not only now but as we get older as well. How we talk does matter and matters a hell of a lot more than people think but I have hope that that can change. This project also relates to one of our central ideas of our class. The central question of “how can we live better together?” is directly effected by how we as citizens improve ourselves, our community, and the frequency in which we discuss with one another. We can live better together, and it starts with open dialogue about problems that we face. It starts with listening to different opinions than your own and finding out why you have your opinion and why someone else has theirs. It starts with deliberation and not just every now and then but every month, week, and day. I want to live better together with other people and if we all actually put in the effort, I know we can. Here’s hoping we can.


Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Zora

Our dinner took place on April 15th, 2018 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. In attendance was Jenny, Caroline, and Madeline, and Zora. Madeline made baked spaghetti with garlic bread, I brought my own food due to dietary restrictions, and Jenny and Caroline provided beverages and dinnerware. They are all college students at Western Kentucky University. Jenny and Caroline are both juniors and roommates. Jenny is studying nursing. While Caroline is studying advertising. Jenny was born in the United Kingdom and moved to the United States in elementary school. I think this is very interesting, because she has an outsiders opinion on several aspects of American culture, and could compare it to that of the United Kingdom. Caroline grew up in the Lexington area, a large city about two hours north of Bowling Green. Madeline is a sophomore, studying organizational leadership. She is from Scottsville, a small town south of Bowling Green. I am a freshman also at Western Kentucky University studying mathematical economics. I have lived in Bowling Green for the past five years, but I have moved several times across the United States due to my parents being social workers. I think having people from both different geographic and familial backgrounds gave our conversation more substance because we were able to bring our experiences from where we grew up to answer the various questions. We were able to use the different places we have all lived to compare the differences and similarities we see in Bowling Green.

Our dinner began with introductions, such as our names, our majors, and where we grew up. But as we got further into the conversation we began to focus on what being a citizen means; as well as, how we as citizens interact in our communities. One interesting point brought up throughout our dinner was how we all said having a greater sense of community would be ideal; however, several of our neighbors were not necessarily people we would want or trust in our houses, and we all have so many responsibilities it is hard to interact with those not in our immediate group of people we are surrounded with. For example, Caroline and Jenny’s’ families had both regularly held family meals around the table. They both remember these dinners very fondly. Caroline described the family dinners as a way for everyone to catch-up with each other. They talked about their days and anything important that was going on in their lives. Madeline and I both do not recall regularly having family meals. Although our experiences were very different, the main reason our families did not have family meals was due to all of us having different schedules. For my family, both of my parents worked at different places and had very irregular hours. I went to school, at some points in my life, an hour away. Our family meals were replaced by long car rides into the city each morning and afternoon, and on top of those rides, I had basketball practice every night. By the time we were all home it was too late to eat dinner. However, both Madeline and I agreed that it would have been nice to have family meals around the table because being able to have the time to catch up with one another could strengthen the familial bonds and create more of an awareness of what is happening in everyone’s lives. Jenny was the only one of us to have meals at neighbor’s houses. She said it was a way for everyone to know each other, and created a greater sense of community. Personally, I would feel uncomfortable having dinner at my neighbor’s house, but I think that this is only because I have never experienced it or had neighbors that I was close to. I think that this highlights the isolation in a lot of communities in the United States. We are very closed off and private. There are seldom neighborhood-wide events or regular interactions beyond waving as you drive by, and the once a year yard sale. Everyone is busy doing their own things, and we never have the time to talk to one another.

One reading that I feel related to a theme of our conversation was the chapters we read from Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maas. I think this reading relates because it talks about a community that has been destroyed by conflict and civil war. This is a far cry from isolation seen in Bowling Green, but it vaguely relates to the feeling lost connections and being unaware of what is going on around you. I do not have any meaningful contact with my neighbors, and I have no idea what they have going on in their lives even though we only live twenty feet from each other. Along with the lack of interaction, I also realized even though I have never interacted with my neighbors I still have a lack of trust for some them. Which was astounding to me, because how can you judge someone you have never talked to. I think this lack of community creates a sense of unease and misunderstanding, similar to that of the Bosnian war.

The central question I think our theme of the dinner related most to was, “how do we live better, or less terrible, together?” From our conversations, we all had an idea of what we wanted our community to be, but we originally lacked the way to get there. I think every idea we had was hindered by the simple fact the many people would possibly not participate and the conflicting schedules previously mentioned. However, after giving this topic more thought I think that even if some people do not participate, it is a step towards our ideal society. For example, this dinner I would have never voluntarily gone to a dinner at a stranger’s house but I’m glad I did. Through this dinner, I was able to meet and interact with people I would not have otherwise, and I made new connections within my community. With this dinner, I learned more about how I view society and what I want from it. I also learned that isolation can be transformed simply by having a meal with someone new.

A College Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Elizabeth

For this Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I asked two of my friends, Sarah and Shane, if they could join me for a nice conversation over dinner about some topics they usually do not talk about with friends; they both said they would be happy to join me. Sarah has been one of my best friends since high school and who I am confident will be a friend of mine for the rest of my life. I met Shane last semester but we did not get to know each other well until this semester and now he is one of my best friends as well. I decided to ask them to ask a friend or two of theirs, of which I do not personally know well, and they asked Andrew, Whitley and Caroline to join us at the dinner; they all said they would be there. Andrew is one of Shane’s fraternity brothers and was born and raised in Nashville, he is a construction management major and plans to take over his dad’s business one day. Whitley is from Lexington and is one of Sarah’s sorority sisters, she mentioned that she recently changed her major to Biology with and interest in pre-med. Caroline, who is from Nashville as well, and Sarah have had classes together so they met one another through those. We had the dinner here in Bowling Green at Sarah’s house, which is on College Street. I felt as if it was my obligation to cook for them since they were doing me a favor, and Sarah let us use her house, so I decided to cook the food and made baked chicken pasta. This Kentucky Kitchen Table was a unique experience as none of us are family, nor was any of my family there, and we are all college students here at WKU.

When we sat and stood around the counter island in the kitchen (because there were not enough seats and also no table), and I told them a little more about the project they are helping me with and the Honors 251 course. I mentioned the three main questions of the class: how can we live better together, how can we solve problems, and how can we have more say over our lives. I mentioned to them that it might not be a bad idea to have those questions in the back of their mind while answering the other questions I was going to ask them, as it might make the other questions clearer and easier to answer. I am not sure if telling them this helped them at all, but it did not hurt to try to involve the class a little more.

To begin the conversation, I asked them what citizenship means to them. Shane was the first to respond saying that he thought of citizenship as contributing to the society that we live in. We then continued to talk about what citizenship means and overall everyone agreed with what Shane said about contributing to society. To add to that, everyone agreed with that being a good citizen meant contributing to our society in a positive manner. I then asked them how they thought they contributed to the society we live in. Shane is the only one that was old enough to vote in the past year’s elections, so he mentioned that he has voted in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Sarah works with kids at an elementary school so she feels like that she contributes to our society by providing an example to the future generations to be the best person they can. Andrew then mentioned that he does not feel like he does much as a citizen for the Bowling Green community, but he feels the opposite when he is back home in Nashville. He stated that he works for his dad’s construction business that puts pipes in the ground all around the city so that people have flowing water to and from their residences. He said how much hard work it took, but after sour conversation about citizenship, he felt that his work was worth it because it helped tons of people in the Nashville area.

After Andrew mentioning he is from Nashville, Caroline and Andrew started talking about the city of Nashville: what part of town they live in, where they went to high school, who they know, etc. They mentioned a couple of people that they both knew of, but not well, but they still said they were surprised they did not know one another. That surprised Sarah, Shane and I as we all think of Nashville as a huge city when compared to Bowling Green; they obviously do not see the vastness of the city like we do. To include Whitley in the conversation, I asked her if she feels the same way about Lexington as they do about Nashville; meaning whether she felt like she knew a lot of people or not. She said that she did not feel like she knew a lot of people because she went to a high school that was a lot smaller compared to most of the other ones. After this conversation died down, since we were already on the topic of hometown communities, I decided to ask them what kind of community they want to live in.

As the conversation began, Sarah and Shane both mentioned that they wanted to live in a bigger community than what they do now. On the other hand, Caroline, Andrew and Whitley all mentioned that they wanted to live in a community similar to the one they call home now, which they constitute as a big community. I asked them why they felt like living in a bigger community was better than that of a smaller community and the response I got was the opportunities present in a city. They mentioned that there are more businesses, places to live, and people in bigger communities which often leads to a greater amount of opportunities available to them. I asked them how they felt about the interpersonal relationships they would be able to gain from a business point of view by living in a bigger community, mentioning that I feel as if the relationships I have gained from persons in the Bowling Green community, a smaller community, are on a personal level. Andrew then mentioned that the relationships he has gained from working at his dad’s business have been personal and that he has even grown closer with his dad. Whitley mentioned that she works at a YMCA club during the summers in Lexington and feels like she is able to gain personal relationships with the kids and adults that come to the YMCA. Caroline said she was unable to tell whether the she has gained any personal relationships while working in business because she has only babysat her cousins so those relationships were already on a personal level. Overall, we all agreed that we wanted to live in bigger communities because the opportunities available mean more than the possibility of not having any personal relationships in the business world.

I learned a lot from my friends, the people I had just met, and even myself. I also was able to see how the themes of the class actually play into reality. Even though we are only college kids and still have a lot to learn about ourselves as adults and who we want to be, I think living life by trying to answer the three main questions of the class can do a lot of good for our future selves and future generations. Doing Kentucky Kitchen Table with my college peers really allowed me to see how diverse or similar a small group of people can be when asked small yet difficult to answer questions. It is important, even necessary, for people to have differing opinions in some situations and the same in others. It is also important for people for voice their opinions and ideas because who knows, maybe that idea could change the entire situation. For example, all the deliberations that I attended this week would have been extremely hard to make happen without some light disagreements and practically impossible without people voicing their ideas and opinions on how to solve the problem. Solving problems, especially those that are wicked, can be difficult and sometimes feel impossible; but, with everyone putting in their opinions and ideas about the issue at hand then that can lead to us living better together as a society. I am glad I got to talk to my college peers and ask them personal questions about themselves and the society we live in today. Overall, I am glad I had to do this project because these conversations would have never happened without these guidelines, but after this first time, I feel like these types of conversations are likely to happen again. Kentucky Kitchen Table really opened my eyes and showed me that even though we are young adults, it is still possible to have adult-like conversations around the dinner table (or dinner island in my case).

Kentucky Kitchen Table in Bowling Green, KY.


by Madeline

Our dinner took place in Bowling Green, KY on April 15th. Caroline, Jenny, and Zora attended. Our Kentucky Kitchen Table was a little unconventional since Zora and I were unable to have them at home with family, and I think this gave our KKT a unique college perspective! Caroline is a junior at Western Kentucky University majoring in advertising and grew up in the Lexington area. Jenny is a junior majoring in nursing originally from the United Kingdom, but moved to America when she was in elementary school. Zora is a freshman majoring in economics with aspirations to do law (also in Honors 251) and is from Bowling Green, but has moved around as both her parents are social workers. I’m from Scottsville, KY, a small town about 30 minutes south of Bowling Green. We had baked spaghetti with garlic bread, Zora brought special food as she is vegan. I made the food, but Caroline and Jenny provided their apartment and dinnerware.

We talked about what it means to be a citizen, on both a local and national level. Overall, everyone seemed to come to a consensus that citizenship is about being kind to one another. Jenny talked a lot of how her Christian faith led her to want to help and be kind to others. She wants to be a nurse, so her future is going to be centered around caring for other people. She said she wanted to be kind to people and have a good impression, because maybe one day she can share the love of Christ with them. She also talked of the difference between the United Kingdom and the United States in regard to kindness. She said in the U.K. everyone is in their own little world just trying to get from place to place, and that smiling or saying hello to a stranger would be strange. I feel like this is more of a Kentucky thing, but it made me feel good about being a U.S. citizen nonetheless.

When it came to eating around a kitchen table, Caroline and Jenny had, while Zora and I had not on a regular basis. Zora’s family has an odd schedule from both her parents being social workers, and they all have different eating habits. She said it would have been nice to have dinners together, comparing it to how she enjoys holidays with her family. For me, I lived with my single grandmother for years, and my mom and brother moved in with us when I turned 13. We all had different schedules and the kitchen table was never clean, so we had a lot of fast food and freezer meals. Because this was unconventional, we never really ate around the table together and definitely did not have any neighbors over. I always wished that that had been different, but it was hard to advocate for it at the time because no one else really wanted to. Caroline and Jenny both had positive experiences from eating at the table. Caroline said it was a sort of release to get to have that time with her family, in that it was a time to just relax and not think about anything else going on. I think eating at the table and having that conversation probably strengthens family relationships as well. If dinners have any of the same conversation that our Kentucky Kitchen Table did, they are most likely opinion shaping. I would say actually talking about these issues probably results in children having some of the same ideas as their parents, which is neither good nor bad, I just know that I have a completely liberal view on life in contrast to my grandmother, and it could be from not ever talking about it and how my opinions were shaped outside of the home.

When talking of what advice we would give to future politicians running for office our stances were centered around keeping people in mind. I feel this is odd in that political leaders should already be trying to represent the vast majority of people. Politics have become more about popularity, fame, and money than service to the country. It is sad that a group of college students are so disheartened by the government in our country, but maybe this can be some sort of fuel for change. When looking at the three questions that frame our class, I feel that this issue relates to them all. We can solve problems if we talk about the issues at hand. We can live better together push for change. We can have more of a say over our lives in just doing these things.

I also think it is interesting that everyone at the table wanted to be a good person that people respected. This seems like common sense, but how does chaos and evil break out if everyone in the world had a desire to do good? This relates to the Love Thy Neighbor readings by Peter Maass, that is surrounding the violence within the Bosnian War. Everything was normal and peaceful prior to war, a place like the United States. War was able to start out of what seems like nowhere. Misunderstanding and unresolved conflict is the core of fighting, and this dinner represents a grain of sand in the scheme of talking it out, but is still a representation of working to an understanding nonetheless.

This leads me to the overall way this dinner translated into the class for me. After a week of deliberations I realized this dinner represented something much bigger that society is lacking. The key thing that tied this dinner and deliberation together is conversation. One thing that I feel people really are not good at today is talking about issues. People never want to listen to opposing opinions. I think this has led to the younger generations just staying out of all of it, not wanting to engage in confrontation that actually should just be conversation. In the David Brook’s article If it Feels Right he talks about this, in that people just go with “what feels right” in the moment, rather than analyzing and coming up with new ideas of what is right.

Eating with my peers was refreshing, and I came out of my Kentucky Kitchen Table with a better understanding of how this small dinner can relate to the overall themes of the class. I feel like sharing this experience with college students made the dinner different, but did not affect the depth of the assignment.

Tackling Problems One Meal at a Time

By Nate

My Kentucky Kitchen Table project took place in the suburbs of Bowling Green. Though Bowling Green is not my original home, I have come to call it so. My girlfriend’s family hails from here, and I seem to make new friends here each day. There were four people gathered around my table: Kaitlynn, my girlfriend, Meredith, a girl that I know in passing from my dorm building, and Janet, Kaitlynn’s grandmother that hosted the Kentucky Kitchen Table project at her house. Kaitlynn is my girlfriend of seven months and is from Lexington. She is bright and a very cheerful person. Although we have differing ideologies, we have much more in common than separates us. Meredith is reserved and very intellectual. She has the vibe of an old soul and has similar beliefs as me. Janet is sixty-nine years old and although I have only met her a couple of times, I can tell that she is a very kind person who cares deeply about people. I prepared green beans as a side, which I cooked in a deep brownie tray because I didn’t have a pot at the dorm, so I made due and they turned out great. Kaitlynn made mac n’ cheese and Janet bought chicken. Meredith baked brownies for dessert.


After diving into our meal, the first question was “what does citizenship mean to you?” This spurred answers from Meredith about being involved in local events such as the fair and shopping local. Janet, being the eldest there, had a slightly different perspective. She said that citizenship for her was mostly about being a good neighbor and helping those in need, she added that the world would be a much better place if people would get to know their neighbors more and lend a hand when someone is in need. A question that spurred more conversation was “what kind of community do you want to live in?” Theses answers were mostly stereotypical, a nice crime-free suburban neighborhood, until I said I want to live in a very small town, where you know everybody and every car you pass waves at you. This prompted some discussion about the positive and negative aspects of living in a rural versus an urban area.

Soon after the question “What social issue is closest to your heart?” was discussed, we delved into politics. Then it became apparent that we were a very diverse group. Not a traditional ethnically diverse group, but a group with diversity of thought. Around the kitchen table we had people that represented both the political right and left, as well as moderate and more hardcore versions of each. In today’s political climate it is made to look as if people with differing political opinions cannot engage each other in civil conversation. However, around this Kentucky kitchen table I found this stereotype to not be true whatsoever. Our diverse group discussed matters, and, in many cases, we had a lot more in common than one would be believe. When we did not share the same viewpoint, we would treat the other people respectfully.

Another theme of the discussion was that most of the things we were discussed about community was family based. It seemed the underlying motive behind the ideal community that good citizenship is meant to propagate is that this community would be a good one to raise kids. Janet, being the only one there to have raised a family was very enlightening. She pointed that knowing your neighbors and helping them out is a good thing to do when you are planning on raising kids as they can help keep your kids out of trouble. Also, she talked about supporting children who are less fortunate in the community by supporting local youth organizations and maybe even volunteering. The younger people around the table, myself included, idealized a perfect little house in a nice community, but hadn’t thought as having a role in making this happen. Janet illuminated this concept of building a community by actively working to make it better. In my life I have seen this to be true but had not realized it. My father, being a landlord, had always talked about how if you fix up your yard in a run-down neighborhood, some of your neighbors are bound to do the same. This shows the ripple effect that being a good citizen and member of society can have. Also, in my town I have seen that you cannot simply buy your way in to a good community. The most upscale neighborhood in my town isn’t the place I would call the best community. It is filled with rich people who hardly know each other, and the neighborhood has an out of control burglary problem. After Janet’s comments I reflected on this and also noticed that perhaps the best community where I am from is far from the wealthiest, however it is filled with lovely people who love life and know all of their neighbors. Every spring this neighborhood has a community yard sale and they have neighborhood cleanup days. This all shows that the only way to achieve everyone’s wish of living in a good community was to work at it through being a good neighbor and therefor a good citizen.

Through this Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I learned that everyone has dreams, and a major path to these dreams is through good citizenship. In order to live in a society that everyone wants to live in, we must work at it. In a society that is so divisive and makes everyone and everything seem as if it has its own agenda, one thing that can bring us together is our shared citizenship. If we all worked on being better citizens, then this country would be a much better place.

Another thing that I learned during the course of this project was the importance of communication. When I first met my girlfriend, it was clear that we had far different political views, however for our sake we decided that we would both discuss it with each other with civility and respect, and we have done so very well. Over our conversations I have come a little bit her way, and her mine. I had thought that this kind of civil discussion and working too see other people’s points could only be maintained for two people at most, but this project persuaded me to believe otherwise. In our discussions I saw people of vastly different beliefs communicating respectively and effectively with each other, in a fashion I thought extinct from our nation’s discourse. In 1850, the United States had acquired a vast new amount of land from winning the Mexican-American War and the slave states and anti-slave states came to the compromise of 1850, admitting California as a free state and passing a tougher fugitive slave law, while the other new territories’ laws would be decided under popular sovereignty. This kind of “meet-in-the-middle” compromising needs to see a revival in our nation. I believe that this revival would best be started around kitchen tables across the country, as people with varying beliefs can come together and discuss matters with civility as we did around our kitchen table.

This project relates to the central class question, “How do we solve problems?” because around our table, our diverse in thought group were able to come together on varying issues much easier than one would have thought it to be. When trying to solve problems, it is important that we try to engage each other with civility and mutual respect that allows us to reach agreeable solutions to the many wicked problems our community and world face. Around the familiar kitchen table environment, it was much easier to discuss matters that are typically controversial and avoided—perhaps, maybe they should serve fried chicken at the floor of the Senate!

This assignment made me realize that we have more in common with our neighbors than we think. Seeing these mutual held beliefs is an important step in appreciating the values of deliberative engagement of a community. I believe this project relates to the reading, “Tackling Wicked Problems Through Deliberative Engagement” by Martin Carcasson. Around the table, it was almost like a miniature town hall meeting. We had divergent thinking going on; everyone was coming from a different place and had their individual beliefs which they expressed freely. We worked through the groan zone next, though I did not find it to be so bad. Then, all there was to do was convergent thinking, which was fairly natural to do at this point. We were quick to come to common ground, realizing our “end goals” were basically the same. Through this miniaturized set of deliberative engagement, I saw how we should all work to solve our wicked problems. By letting everyone’s voice be heard, treating that voice with respect, and putting forth the effort to see where that voice is coming from, leads us all to realize that there is no problem too big when we all work together.

Kentucky Kitchen Table in Relation to Our Everyday Lives


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By Kinsley

This week, I had the privilege of sitting down and enjoying a meal with familiar faces and some not so familiar ones in Bowling Green, Kentucky. My name is Kinsley, and quite possibly one of the times I learned the most during my freshman year of college is during a Kentucky Kitchen Table assignment for my advanced Citizen and Self class. The assignment’s premise was simple: grab a few people who are from culturally different backgrounds, people who grew up in different areas of the world, and ask them to a dinner where they contribute food and quality conversation. I think it’s fitting to introduce the faces of the fresh ideas and possible solutions to solve the world’s wicked problems. To put it simply, a wicked problem is one that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that often are difficult to recognize.

Katelyn is a soft-spoken, aspiring journalist with a passion for the Middle East; she is in the process of learning Arabic with intentions to better serve the people of countries in need. She spends her free time researching new ways to help the refugee influx from recent years into the Bowling Green area, and she is excited to serve in a Middle Eastern country this summer. She will begin volunteering at the International Center of Kentucky soon. She is passionate about her faith, her family, and loving her neighbors, despite the stereotypes associated with their physical attributes. Katelyn brings a heart for the nations to our table.

Taylor is a southern gentleman at his finest, as he loves the outdoors and believes strongly in the rights and privileges that the Second Amendment provides. He is a computer science major, following closely in the footsteps of his father. He loves the classics, Ocean’s Eleven and Talladega Nights topping his list, and he would classify himself as “one of the funny ones.” His ancestry is a large part of who he is; as twenty-five percent Taiwanese, he loves the history that his grandmother brought from Taiwan to the United States in the twentieth century. Taylor adds cultural diversity to our table.

Nichole is passionate about Dallas Cowboys football and feels most comfortable when gaming with her guy friends. From a young age, she has had the divine opportunity to travel the world; some of the most beautiful, enticing destinations she has visited include Munich, Germany and Brussels, Belgium. For as long as she can remember, she has had the chance to be immersed in a variety of diverse cultures. Nichole is keen to moving around the United States and sees each new move as a new way to grow. Perhaps one of the most influential points in Nichole’s life occurred a mere three weeks ago when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nichole brings a fresh sense of emotionally raw diversity to our table.

Rylee is a fellow classmate and spends her time studying; as a part of the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University, and a writer for The Talisman magazine published on campus, she is passionate about what she does. As the only one at our table to have lived in the Bowling Green area for her entire life, she is knowledgeable about the happenings in the city we all now call home. She is passionate about her faith and the people she meets in her day to day interactions at the Beverly Hills Bargain Boutique, for her she draws much more than a paycheck. Rylee thrives on customer service. She is more liberal-minded than many in this small group, enabling her to bring forth diversity. Rylee brings a heart for people and a smile that can light up a room to our table.

Holly teaches eighth grade English at Butler County, a local middle school in Bowling Green, while she raises two children of her own. She is passionate about her line of work, but is also concerned about the crisis of cut funding in Kentucky schools. Her childhood, marked by certain events, allowed her to have differing opinions from the rest of the group. Holly loves pouring her knowledge into the children she encounters every day, and she brings strong, yet caring, opinions and ideas to our table.

Polio, a chronic disease that has seemingly plagued her since her youth, does not prevent Bonita from living her life radically. Bonita is an actively involved member of a local church and spends much of her time witnessing her grandchildren grow. As the oldest participant at our table, she brings knowledge of the early 1900s, and she is able to compare the ways in which the world was and how it is now. Bonita brings a new perspective and seasoned years to our table.

Michael is the principal of Bluegrass Middle School in Bowling Green, Kentucky. As he and his spouse, Holly, are both employed by schools systems, thus employed by the government, he has many opinions about the corruption and inequality of budget-cutting among public schools in the state. With a background in psychological science, he deals heavily with the emotional aspects of children. He has much to say about the refugee crisis in America, and especially the impact that it has had in the Warren County area. Michael brings the inner workings of the mind and emotional states of being to our table.

When asked the most crucial question of the entire night, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you,” each person at the table emitted a variably different response. Everyone present was raised in atmospheres foreign to the others, and this created an exciting idea of citizenship. As for me, both of my parents are Air Force veterans, leading me to grow into an adult familiar to the concepts of honor and pride for my nation, which eventually led to many of my adult decisions resting upon my Republican, conservative-minded upbringing. Perhaps one of the most interesting testimonies is that of Bonita, who was born and raised in Kentucky. She was born into a farming community, and because she was overcome with Polio at such a young age, she has a unique outlook on the ways in which the world helps the disabled and needy. This question in particular caused me to be reminded of the key theme of “How can we live better, or at least less badly, together?” When people of ethnically diverse backgrounds are faced with the complex idea of citizenship, as it has possibly never crossed their minds before, they oftentimes struggle to find words enough to describe their associated thoughts and emotions.

Perhaps the most controversial conversation of the evening began with these simple words: “What kind of community do you want to live in?” Thus, a discussion about gun control and Second Amendment rights was launched. “As for me, I’d like to live in a community that is graciously armed,” says Taylor, “because that is what I am most comfortable with. I could practically shoot a gun before I could walk.” Though many at the table were in agreement with Taylor’s opinion, Holly had a strikingly different viewpoint. Even after growing up in a community where guns were present and in her own home, she feels the most comfortable when there are none in her close proximity. This topic spurred a conversation that lasted for upwards of twenty minutes, and intertwined within was the reality that citizens, those living in the same city, shopping at the same grocery stores, and enrolling their children in the same public school systems, can, and do, coexist. Political, social, and moral decisions, while crucial to one’s expressed identity, do not solely define a human being. To allow guns or not to allow guns is simply a matter of opinion in which, when handled properly, can allow for healthy stretches of the mind and the realm of normal conversation.

It was interesting to learn that the dynamic of “being neighborly” has changed drastically in recent years. In the twentieth century, it was expected that neighborhoods were familiar with the families that lived there; dinner parties and welcoming cookie platters were typical. However, when our table was faced with the question, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?” the answers were more than scarily similar. I, personally, have lived in the same house for ten years, and I dare say that I have no recollection of a single person’s name on my street. This unknowing is more spurred by a busy life rather than the lack of desire to get to know those living close to me. I think community has changed with this century due to the very virtual reality that we now live in. Society as a whole is under this incorrect impression that knowing people on social media is the same as having a personal relationship with them. “No, I really don’t know my neighbors, and I’m not sure there’s a real reason behind that,” was the resounding response from many at the table. Katelyn had a different idea though; growing up in the house her parents have owned since before her birth, she came to know the girls who lived in the house next to hers. As life usually does, it drew the girls apart, reducing Katelyn’s known neighbors to an astounding zero.

Though I could write forever of the lessons I learned, I think it is essential to remember the key themes of Citizen and Self and how they truly relate to the intense realities of the world. Knowledge and intentionality of conversations was a prevailing piece of our Kentucky Kitchen Table experience. No doubt was this exposure of the inner workings of each person’s hearts one of the most eye-opening of my life; I think this is simply because the millennial generation in which I identify with has forgotten the importance of “loving thy neighbor” and of communicating, deliberating, thinking in an effective way to solve the wicked problems present in the world today. Relative to the class as a whole, I would say that Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maass is the most related to the ideas and topics discussed at our table. Faith, family, and personal history were the key themes in the ways that conversations were driven.

I truly believe that the first steps towards a more connected world are to obtain culturally different opinions and retain this knowledge in order to answer the questions that it seems all citizens desire to be answered:

How can we live better, or at least less badly, together?

How can we ensure that we have more of a say over our own lives, and how can we ensure that others have more of a say over their own lives?

How can we solve problems?

It is our job as citizens to strive towards the type of world these questions illustrate each and every day of our lives and to not give in to our desires to quit until we have found the answers we have always so desperately searched for.

With All Sincerity, Kinsley