Markkula Center for Applied Ethics - Better Choices

Can We Talk?

Can We Talk?

Food is the great unifier

As part of the Ethics Center’s effort to lead a campus-wide exploration of Free Speech and Civil Discourse this year, a group of Center Hackworth Fellows recently launched an effort to bring students together for dinner.

Senior Anand Purohit explains it this way:

The idea was simple: 12 students, sat around a table, eating a ton of food and talking about difficult subjects. The dinner consisted of delicious Italian food, and the conversation covered topics ranging from the importance of listening, to the nature of free speech, to racism, to the impacts of human self-preservationism on social interactions.

Fellow organizer Taylor Perry described the atmosphere:

While I was sitting there soaking in the moment, a smile came to my face as I looked around and saw a refreshing sight: people having difficult conversations about life without fear of being judged or harassed.

There was a shared sense of peace that I gauged from the people in my group who were relieved to find that they weren’t the only ones struggling to make sense of what was going around them in their day to day lives and in the world in general.  

Mind you, there different opinions voiced but when asked to clarify or explain why an individual's opinions it was out of interest to gain a better understand compared to attacking the person for having a different view.  

Sarah Tarter also remarked on the hunger students had to “share and to be heard”:

What I took away from listening to my peers is that despite our loving friends, our thought-provoking classes, and the beautiful roses that call to us from the Mission Gardens, our inner lives are still largely undernourished. We make small talk with our friends as we pass from Lucas to the library, promising to grab coffee soon and never following through. We wait patiently for someone else to answer the professor’s question, because although we think we know the answer, we are trapped by a fear of judgment. We wander the streets of Bellomy on Friday night, hugging every familiar person we see, but we walk out of some classes at the end of the quarter without having learned a single new name.  

For one student interviewed by Fellow Luchie Glorioso, the experience “was so radically different that he likened it to ‘life histories combined with progressive activism.’”

“How crazy does that sound?” Glorioso reflected. “Having real, deep, and invested dinner conversations feels so unusual, so radical, that it feels like some form of activism. How far removed are we from listening to each other? How removed are we from caring to know more about other people?”  Finally, she issued this appeal:

I challenge the next person to listen, actually listen. Host a dinner. Come to our next dinner. Listen and engage. It might be the craziest thing you do.

To read all of the fellows’ reflections, visit their blog, The Power of Our Voices.



The Power of Our Voices  bloggers Sarah Tarter, Maria Lutgarda Glorioso, Anand Purohit, and Taylor Berry. 

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