When we bring together groups of people from all spectrums of race, age, sexual orientation, economic status, and religion, we find our assumptions of the world greatly challenged. Understanding the need to be challenged is crucial for any environment which prepares us for the future. Diversity, in the most traditional sense, typically involves physical features or core identifiers; however, if we are to truly define an inclusive environment, we must also look at diversity of thought. Especially in tense political climates like the one we live in, it is essential for us to step back and examine why difference of opinion matters. We must be willing to question our own beliefs.
Intellectual discussions are a crucial part of creating an inclusive and accepting environment; not only in the classroom but in everything we do. Through my work as an advocate on the Student Diversity Committee and in the Junior State of America, I have realized how important it is to engage in thoughtful discourse. Only through challenging conversations can we understand the similarities we share, so we may work together to overcome the problems we see in our world today.
For example, when I observed an Israel-Palestine debate one year ago, I noticed how divided the packed room truly was. One by one, students stepped up to the podium to passionately discuss opposing viewpoints, faces turning tomato red with emotion. However, through respectful discourse, we were able to unanimously settle on the possibility of a two-state solution within fifty minutes. While entirely hypothetical, this bipartisan solution illustrated how important it is to promote diversified thought. An inclusive community is one where everyone can feel welcomed, but also one where everyone can engage in pivotal discussions. People feel a sense of belonging when they can comfortably communicate with others. Through tolerance, we have the ability to make connections, create a network, and understand how people interact.
Open-mindedness propels us as one unified force, driven by our awareness of how others live. When we give ourselves the opportunity to work in diverse settings, we learn from each other. An accepting community fosters greater imaginations, elevates tolerance, and improves our ability to understand society.