Hearing All the Voices in the Room
Recent editorial for Downtown Fort Worth Rotary – I offered a challenge to my fellow Rotarians that would be good for any community leader.
I’m excited to talk about one of my favorite topics and to issue a small challenge. In the past few years, I have joined different groups and clubs to improve and enhance my circle of contacts for various purposes: to serve others, spread the message of the group, and increase my overall awareness of the community.
I have been taught the more diverse our audience, the more likely we are to hear each other’s voices in the room. Lately, I find myself wondering how I can be part of increasing diversity in my community and in the various groups I’m involved in.
I find I tend to gravitate towards those that make me feel comfortable and that I agree with. I have learned I will not grow if I don’t continue to put myself in situations where I learn and engage in ideas different from my own.
As a social worker, I am well-versed in terms like sexism, racism, ageism, or whatever “ism” that comes to mind as you read this. Diversity used to be “us understanding them”, but we have evolved into a current climate of “us understanding us”.
As a leader, I’m well-versed with other terms like performance, competence, and innovation. I ask myself, those I mentor, and those that guide me how we can overcome the “isms” in our community. I always come to the same conclusion: find more people that are different from you (in whatever way) and engage with them.
Our Rotary is filled with some of the most fascinating movers and shakers of our community. I have witnessed service, compassion, kindness, and integrity in more ways that I can list. My observation and participation has taught me our philosophy of truth, being fair, building goodwill, better friendships, and serving others is something at the core of each Rotary member.
So my challenge for you will not be one of great undertaking…I ask this group to simply continue what you are doing, but at the same time, consider how we can move to engage people different from ourselves, whether it’s socioeconomic status, race, gender, age, politics, business, and so on.
Each of us have as many differences as we do similarities and to recognize and embrace both makes one stronger as an individual and allows groups to expand as well as deepen in ways you may not have thought of previously.
Consider diversity in the same way you consider innovation; it will expand our reach and improve our performance as individuals.
I close with the words of John F. Kennedy, “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”