Counterclockwise: Haleigh (me), Lisa, Deron, Wanda, Hubert, Brent (not photographed)
I conducted my Kentucky Kitchen Table project on November 3, 2018. I hosted the dinner at my own house in Bremen, Kentucky around my dining room table. The following people were at my dinner: Lisa, my mother, who is middle-aged and has lived in Bremen her whole life. She works for the school system and enjoys being physically active. Deron, my father, who is also middle-aged and is originally from White Plains, Kentucky while also living in Florida for a time. He is the manager of a saw mill and enjoys being outdoors. My brother, Brent, who is in his mid-twenties and is a student at the University of Kentucky. He is getting his degree in Pharmacy and enjoys sports. My grandmother, Wanda, who is in her late seventies and has lived in Bremen her whole life. She helped raise me and my brother, and enjoys cooking and sewing. My grandfather, Hubert, who is in his early eighties. I do not share a close relationship with him like my grandmother because he was always busy working while I was growing up. Lastly, me, Haleigh. I am eighteen years old, I grew up in the very same house that my Kentucky Kitchen Table project was hosted, and I am majoring in Dental Hygiene.
I began the conversation with the mandatory question: Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you? Lisa was the first to answer saying that all American citizens should have a respect for the American flag. She talked about how it is the very symbol of our citizenship to this country and a symbol of freedom. She said that it is a shame how many people are choosing to disrespect the flag in such ways that have been broadcasted on the news recently. I then brought up how some people do not see the flag as a symbol for freedom in the way that we do. Everyone at the table agreed that the flag is indeed a symbol for freedom, and that protestors should find alternative ways to express their concerns in order to uphold the consecration of the flag.
Hubert joined in, speaking of his days in the United States Air Force and how he saw people bleed and die for the sake of our country. He believed that citizenship means supporting the military while they are in service and after. He expressed his concern for the number of veterans in the United States that are not treated with the amount of respect or care that he believes they should.
I then asked the table if they saw our President, Donald Trump, as a model for what citizenship should be in the United States. They seemed hesitant to answer, and Lisa ended up saying that he does in “some ways.” But Brent was strong in his opinion that the President does not embody what an American citizen should be for a variety of reasons. I asked the question: What advice would you give to the people running for office in our country? Deron answered that the main piece of advice he would give is to just do what is right. Hubert said to be honest and follow through on your promises.
I then brought up the issues of bipartisan-ism and how our country is being divided because of it. Some members at the table said that they wish the parties would be done away with while others thought it should stay. I asked Hubert and Wanda, who are Democrats, why they registered for that party when they came of age to vote. They said the Democratic party used to not be so liberal and was the “poor people’s party.” I then asked if they thought the Democratic party has changed and they agreed that it has but have not changed their registration status. They normally choose not to vote in primaries because they normally do not support the motives of Democratic candidates. I believe this a problem for many people from their generation because the parties have changed over time. My personal opinion was that the parties cause unnecessary animosity between Americans because it creates a label which leads to stereotypes.
I then asked how they thought Americans should treat each other. Answers were those such as helping your neighbors, being involved in your community through church, school functions, and community events, and having respect for others. I asked if they thought that Americans are losing respect for one another. Deron said that he believes that a lot of Americans are choosing to alienate one another because of difference in beliefs. He said he thinks social media has a lot to do with the increase in tension. I asked if they believed their religious beliefs influenced their perspectives on how they treat others. Lisa said she felt like it was her duty as a Christian to help others who are in need and church provides a lot of ways to get involved in the community and participate in acts of service. I agreed that a lot of the service hours I worked in grade school came from events through church. Wanda also made reference to the bible verse that states, “Do unto others as they would do unto you.” She said that it is a verse she chooses to live by and she feels that it has influenced her as a citizen.
My next question was: What do you think are the best things about our country today? Hubert said it is that America is still a free country and we are free to live and worship in the ways that we want to that falls within the laws of the country. Brent said the medical field is making huge accomplishments as of recent years and is improving all the time. He talked about the increase of lives that have been saved because of better technology and research. Lisa talked about the education system and how all children in the United States are able to attend public schools while many countries around the world do not allow certain children to attend school at all.
My final question was: What words would you use to describe the United States and our values as a country? Deron said freedom and equality. Brent said sports and technology. Lisa said independence and economic success. Wanda said worship and family. Hubert said jobs and self-esteem. My opinion was power, love, and wealth. I made sure to write down all of these answers because I wanted to remember them specifically. I feel like each of them are correct to some degree and it was interesting to see how they varied.
Through this Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I learned that even people within the same family can have a variety of opinions. I thought it was interesting how the different ages of the individuals seemed to affect their opinions on certain topics. It is true that things in the United States have changed over the years and people in Hubert and Wanda’s generation grew up in a very different country than Brent and I. However, there were still many values that everyone at the table shared and many opinions that were agreed upon. I think this just reinforced the idea that people from similar areas have similar beliefs and can commonly be passed down through families.
This project relates to our class, Citizen and Self, in a variety of ways. It emphasizes the power of deliberation like in “How We Talk Matters.” The meal provided a good way to calmly discuss the social issues in our country and try to reach a common ground on how to solve these problems. I think the central question that most related to my project was “How do we live well together?” I think many of the questions I asked related to this question and answered it in many different ways. Being more involved in your community, having respect for others, and helping your neighbors are all answers that help us citizens live better together. I also think the Kentucky Kitchen Table project allows good opportunities for us to explore ways we can cross the “bridge” from how things are to how things should be in our society.
Overall, I believe my Kentucky Kitchen Table project was a success. We had good food and good conversation about topics that are often times dismissed or ignored around the kitchen table. It was interesting getting to hear all the different opinions on the social issues of our modern society and seeing how different backgrounds played a part in those opinions. This project was essentially a deliberation about a broad range of topics while eating food around a table. I feel like projects like this are beneficial to students and those who attend the dinners because it allows a calm setting where opinions can be shared freely but respectfully. This was the first time I have ever gotten to experience something like this with my family. I feel like it would be a positive thing if more families around the country allowed themselves to be open with one another instead of arguing about their differences.