First Lady Michelle Obama recently delivered the commencement speech to the 2013 graduating class at Eastern Kentucky University. Now, let’s put politics aside for a moment and talk about one of the main themes of her speech. She recommended that we find people with different beliefs and different life experiences and talk with them. Go to them with an open mind and an open heart. We may find common ground. We may not. But in the end, we will maybe be able to see things in a different way. We will have grown a little from that experience. She also said that we become more set in our ways when we only surround ourselves with like-minded people.
I agree with the First Lady. I believe that we all could benefit from more of these conversations. I know I am strong in my own personal beliefs, whether they are political, religious, or just drawn on my own life experiences. However, I am always open to talking to someone who has a different view from mine (as long as they are willing to talk and not just hurl insults or say people are worse than Hitler because, frankly, no one is worse than Hitler). Talking is easy.
I suppose it’s genetic that I enjoy a good argument. I don’t mean the kind of arguments that go back and forth over baseball teams. I mean the kind of arguments that require intelligent conversations, points and counterpoints, examples that can maybe help someone stand in another’s shoes for a minute.
Yes, these conversations can sometimes be difficult to have. Both people may come to the conversation with their own stubborn ideas that they are convinced will never be changed. One may think that the other person can’t possibly know what they are talking about. But if we approach these situations with an open mind, even if it’s just cracked open, there is a chance for a conversation. There is a chance for people being able to maybe see the path to a compromise. There is a chance for people being able to maybe see a way that one person can make a difference.
I also think it’s important that we remember that we should have friends who have different beliefs (on some levels) because a person’s political or religious beliefs should not dictate who that person truly is. Yes it may be a big part of who they are and yes it may have a very strong influence on his or her world view, but these should not determine them entirely as a friend and as a person. I have many friends who do not have even remotely close to the same political beliefs. Does that mean I cannot be friends with them? No. Does that mean I can overlook everything they say without getting a little annoyed. No. But do I let it affect my friendship? How could I? Those people are a wonderful chance for me to try to understand the other side and maybe give them a chance to understand my side. I’m not saying I’m out to convert them to the dark side of the force, or am I on the Jedi side, I don’t know…
Ultimately, you should talk to people, get to know them. As you get to know them, you’ll know them as a person. Don’t look at them as a Red Stater or a Blue Stater; A Christian or an Athiest; a Man or a Woman; look at them as a person who is an equal member (at least theortically) of this amazing country we live in. It may be uncomfortable at times, when those arguments happen, but just remember that the argument does not define the person. It is their right to their opinion and it is your right to your opinion. What you do with that opinion and what you do to learn about the opinion of others is the more important step.
Today’s blog is part of the May NaBloPoMo. The theme this month is Comfort. Today’s prompt was “Frank Clark said: “We find comfort among those who agree with us – growth among those who don’t.” Agree or disagree?”