Crossing Oceans

by Nitya Chagti ’19

Nitya Chagti won second place in the 2017 Bailey Oratorical competition. This year’s prompt was: “At the heart of the liberal arts is civic engagement: How can we use the values of our liberal arts education to heal divides in our nation and world?”

Am I your family?

Think about it. Think about this question long and hard in the next eight minutes as I attempt to persuade you into believing in what I believe in.

Am. I. Your family?

Your immediate reaction is probably: no. After all, you didn’t grow up with me, we didn’t have the same household, and we don’t share any memories together. If you were really thinking about it, you would say I don’t have the same skin colour as you. My accent is different. My mannerism are not like yours. I am, in your eyes, a foreigner. A member of the OTHER.

Now think a little harder. I’m not your family, as we already established, and I’m not from your culture either. And yet I’m here on a stage, speaking to you. How do you know it’s safe to be in the same room with me?  What do you even know about me that you would think it’s safe? If, in this moment, you started to make a list of reasons why it’s safe to listen to me: she’s just a young girl, she’s an Indian so she’s probably a Hindu, she’s doesn’t look like she has a bomb strapped to her; Then, brothers and sisters, we have something to talk about. Because if you made that list, then you just acknowledged fear. You’re afraid that there ARE people out there – on the other side of the ocean – who are going to hurt you. They may not be me, but they exist.  That’s xenophobia. And xenophobia hurts people, creating irreparable divides. These divides are fostered solely by ignorance, but they can be mended by a liberal arts education.

We came to Juniata College thinking that we were going to be handed answers. But that’s not what a liberal arts education does. Instead, it makes realize that we actually don’t know what we thought we knew by challenging our perceptions of the world. So, it makes us curious. And curiosity is the key. The way to eliminate xenophobia, caused by lack of understanding, is to be curious.

So let me ask you this: what’s xenophobia? The word comes from the Greek for xenos, meaning stranger, and phobos, meaning fear.  This irrational fear of strangers doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it hurts people, and the tendency to lash out at strangers is the reason why I’m ashamed. I’m embarrassed of where I’m from, I’m embarrassed of my cultural identity. Here, I no longer share the food that I bring from home – because I’m embarrassed when my friends think that it looks funny.  Here, I pack on powder on my face every morning because I’m ashamed of my skin colour – because I wasn’t born pale enough to fit in.  Here, I usually don’t wear Indian clothing because I’m afraid that if I do, a black truck sporting a Confederate flag will go blazing down Moore Street, singling me out for being different – singling me out for being new.  And here, I’m called Nits. Every semester, I leave my name behind at home so I can fit in: Nitya, meaning eternal, never-ending; what a joke! No one can pronounce it.  Why are we expecting people to stop being themselves just because we’re afraid of them?

The less we know about others, the more we fear them, and the more we fear, the more we hurt people. Surrounded by oceans, we know so little about the seven billion other people that we share this boat with. But I’m guilty of this too. I’ve been uninformed before.  You see, four years ago I went on a walk with my mum and I came across the only Jewish synagogue in New Delhi, India. The synagogue was five minutes from my home and yet I’d never even heard of it.  It’s really surprising now that I think about it, considering that New Delhi is a vibrant city, and it is positively bursting with a variety of cultural beliefs, and to think I’d never even heard of Judaism. Of New Delhi’s 20 million residents, only 40 – forty people, can you imagine – identify as Jewish.  I was so excited! From that moment on, I was so curious that I made it my life’s mission to raise awareness about the Jewish heritage in India. So I organized a heritage walk, the first of its kind in the country, where I introduced dozens and dozens of people to the synagogue.  I believe that stories can alleviate this lack of understanding. As Melissa Flemming, the head of Communications at the United Nations Refugee Agency, once said: “My job is to make people care about the sixty million displaced people in the world. I wish I could tell every single one of their stories. Because if people knew their stories, I don’t think there would be so many walls.”

See, that’s the key: civic engagement isn’t about large-scale activism. It’s about curiosity. It’s about seeking out challenges, as liberal arts teaches us to do. And it’s not as impossible as it sounds. I’ve seen the community around me be curious before.  It all goes back to when I was a freshman, sitting alone on the floor of my room on the night of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, and feeling gut-wrenchingly lonely. Juniata’s Hindu population was negligible – so there were no streamers or lights or exchange of gifts that night. There was no music, dancing, or laughter in the air. I was alone.  “Never again,” I thought to myself. So I set aside my fear of sharing Indian food and of wearing traditional clothing, and next October, I organized the first Diwali celebration on campus. I did not – even in my wildest imaginations – expect the overwhelming response that I got. Ellis Ballroom was packed – over 80 people showed up! It was so unexpected, that we actually ran out of food AND space. That night, the Juniata community and the Huntingdon residents wrapped me in a warm cocoon of love and encouragement. I couldn’t have organized such a huge event without the people I hadn’t expected to help at all: my roommate, my closest friends, my fellow Plexans, and my Friendship Family. My wonderfully thoughtful friendship family, who Googled Diwali traditions and handed me the largest box of goodies that I’ve seen. So that I could have a little piece of tradition even if I wasn’t at home.  Without their curiosity, without their desire to help out, I would have been left, yet again, sitting alone on the floor of my room, lamenting the distance from my family. But they saved me. They loved me. So I said something that day which I still hold to be true: I see all of you as my family, my home away from my home.

Now, I ask you again: am I your family? There’s a reason why I’m asking this. When I ask you if I’m your family, I mean that the only way for us to heal the divides of xenophobia is to address the lack of understanding about the other, which can be done if we ask questions. It can be done if we’re curious. Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, once said that, “you can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water;” Which puts me in mind of a Hindi quote: “Boond boond se sagar banta hai.” It means it takes mere drops of water to make a sea. So individual effort, over time, can bring about a larger change.  Each of us has to ask the questions that move us past ignorance. Because if we don’t – if we don’t – then we’ll stay separated on different sides of the ocean, isolated in our paranoia and hurt. Curiosity will move us past xenophobia, because it eliminates this lack of understanding.  That night in October, you cared enough to ask. I felt the magic – but it wasn’t just magic, it was the beauty of a liberal arts education, which teaches us to be curious, to challenge the world, to come out of our shells. We have to be curious about individual cultural expressions so that ONE day, when someone with a different skin colour, a different accent, and different mannerisms asks you: Am I your family? You WANT to say yes.

To watch the Baileys for 2017, click here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZypa80UOhI

 

 

 

 

Fire Station and Campus

by Claire DeLaval ’17

Claire DeLaval was a finalist in the 2017 Bailey Oratorical competition. This year’s prompt was: “At the heart of the liberal arts is civic engagement: How can we use the values of our liberal arts education to heal divides in our nation and world?”

I love my life. This semester I’m taking all politics and economics courses, like Human Rights and International Political Economy. Once I’m finished with my day on campus, I head down to the fire station next to Johnny’s, Huntingdon Regional District 5. Three nights a week I have to be there by six o’clock to do my fire classes: four hours of classroom or practical skills all about how to lay fire hose in the bed of a truck so that you can pull it out quickly and smoothly; how to rescue a person from a vehicle; how to fightImage result for fire hose fire in its various forms. Being a volunteer firefighter in Huntingdon is just as important to me as being a student of the liberal arts at Juniata, but sometimes I feel like, in my daily life, I have to cross a divide between these two spaces I care about. I’m sure I’m not the only person here who’s experienced that–the feeling of belonging, somehow, in multiple places that are divided from each other. And on a societal level, it’s clear that we’re struggling with how to live in a divided America. Hillbilly Elegy, the memoir by J.D. Vance, was chosen by the New York Times as one of the “six books to help understand Trump’s win.”

For me, living in both these worlds has been a test of my values. I have learned that the values of one person’s reality will not always be a road map to understanding another person’s reality. I have had to suspend my reflex for quick judgment, practice open-mindedness, and most of all, confront my assumptions. Let’s confront the assumptions in tonight’s question.

“How can we use the values of our liberal arts education to heal divides in our nation and world?” I think we cannot put our liberal arts education to real use if we don’t start by seeing and second-guessing our assumptions. Historically, and even in the writing of this prompt, the liberal arts seem arrogant. Are we assuming too much? Until we confront our assumptions–examine each and decide whether or not it can stand–we are not ready to engage in civic action.

First, let’s examine the assumption that everyone wants these divides to be healed. There are clear divides between the fire station as it exists in the community and our college, up on the hill. But, since I started, my presence has created new divides in the firehouse itself. I’m the only one of us not from Pennsylvania. I’m the only woman. Not long after I started, the guys found out I was a politics student. I knew I was the only one in the station with my political views, but I value honesty, and so I was honest. We had arguments about Benghazi, and emails, and conspiracy theories. I told them I thought there was no way Trump would win. I heard a lot about that after the election.

Despite all our differences, the guys have let me in and we all get along. But we are firmly divided along political lines. We talk about politics in the station, but none of us is going to heal this divide and it seems no one really wants it to be healed, because we would each rather coexist with this divide than change our political beliefs. I find some of their views morally outrageous. They think I am an out-of-touch leftie. Sometimes, I wonder if I am. In electing Donald Trump, our country and our friends chose the candidate campaigning against intellectual elitism, against unity, and indirectly, against the values of the liberal arts. The changes people have experienced in the United States and the world have been a long time coming but the nationalism, racism, and separatism that define the world’s current divisions have been, in part, reactions against ideas that the liberal arts values, and against the condescending assumption of liberal elites that they know best. For us to assume that divides must be healed before different people can coexist is a critical mistake. If we demand that these divides be healed before we engage with people different from ourselves, we are walling ourselves in.

We have examined the first assumption of the question (that everyone wants the world’s divides to be healed), and it is up to each of us to decide whether or not that assumption can stand. The second assumption of the question is that we are owed a special ascendancy because we are students of the liberal arts. How can we–distinguished from others by our prestigious education, which we are lucky or talented or rich enough to receive–use our values to alleviate the disunion? It is dangerous to assume that if we only find the right strategy, stringing together the right parts of what we have been taught, we will be what is needed. If we allow this particular assumption to stand, we fail to live up to our liberal arts values by failing to face the world’s discrimination, exclusion, and inequality of opportunity. In the words of bell hooks, an academic and activist whose life’s work has been to challenge assumptions, “If we want a beloved community, we must stand for justice, have recognition for difference without attaching difference to privilege.” We students are in this room because, somewhere along the way, we were privileged enough to attain an expensive liberal arts college education. When we graduate our experiences here, in our classrooms, in our labs, on our sports fields–these will have shaped our educations and they will set us apart. We will be different from the 68 percent of Americans who did not have a bachelor’s degree in the 2014 census. Our educations may allow us to do things other people cannot do. But we must not ever forget that the differences between people–whether it is the degrees we have, the colors of our skin, or the bathrooms we wish to use–do not make us better than each other.

The third assumption in the question is that we are the only people with liberal arts values. Our fire station is full of misogyny. But at the same time, the guys are committed to making sure I succeed as a firefighter. They encourage me to take leadership roles. Last year, when I told our Chief that I was applying for a Forest Service training program in California to get certified in fighting wildfires, he did everything he could to help me train for the fitness test. The crew I trained with in California made the news, and for a few weeks Chief kept forwarding videos he found online of me training in California, because he was proud of me. The guys encourage me to be the best firefighter I can not because they have read bell hooks or even because they spend their free time thinking about workplace discrimination, but simply because they believe a woman can do the same physical job just as well. They believe this even though they laugh at rape jokes in my presence. The complicated thing about values is that other people can share your values without sharing all of your values; other people can share some of your values while also having values that are completely antithetical to other things that you value. People do not have to be us to be good people. People with liberal arts degrees are not the only people with good and useful values.

Civic engagement is indeed at the heart of the liberal arts. From its beginning in late Classical and Hellenistic Greece, the liberal arts education was formed around the subjects considered obligatory for a free person who would participate in civic life. I argue that before engaging in civic action, we must challenge our own assumptions, and that this is best done by getting an outside view of our world. If divides are going to be healed, anyone can lead the way. Let us be open-minded. Our liberal arts do not preordain us to heal the world, but they may be our best tool in civic action. Let us remember what we have been taught. We can take note of opposing views without compromising our own values. We can listen to what others think without forgetting or abandoning what we think. We will not necessarily be the people who heal our divided nation and world. Let us have faith, and remember that our values are strongest when tested by the challenge of reckoning with our assumptions.

Professional Warnings

by Belle Tuten

After my independent study student left my office the other day, I realized that I had just done some serious gender-specific advising. She is going off to graduate school next year, and we’re working to get her prepared in terms of her research and language skills. Yesterday, though, our conversation turned to something else: “that talk” that I wish somebody had given to me back long ago.

I was 23, and newly married. I was at a major conference, for the first time in my graduate career. I went to an evening reception where I ran into some other grad students that I was acquainted with, and they introduced me to their senior professor. I liked him immediately: he was funny and charming.

This particular conference is known for its Saturday night dance, which goes until 1 or 2 in the morning. (You haven’t lived until you’ve seen around 600 medievalists letting their hair down on the dance floor.) As I left the reception to go back to my room, the professor I had met followed me. He asked if he could “escort me to the dance” (with a knowing look). Those who know me know that I would rather be dipped in battery acid than go to a dance, so it was easy to turn him down. Still, as I went back to my room, I was kind of rattled. He was at least 30 years my senior, and also married.  Had I imagined that knowing look? A few weeks later, I asked a friend. Sure enough — all his female grad students knew never to be alone in his office with him.

There’s one in every graduate program — at least there was, and I imagine there still is: one professor (usually white, male, middle aged) who thinks of the new female graduate students as his personal sexual smorgasbord. He might actually date them, as in ask one particular person out and see her consistently, then move on to another. He might also simply make suggestive comments, or quietly suggest to a student that she might wear nicer clothes or try to “look pretty.” Now that there is something called “sexual harassment,” he won’t often grope or proposition, but he’ll let women know that he’s on the prowl, whether he’s the charming or the creepy version. (Please note, he can also be she; the relationships may not be heterosexual. My observations are based on experiences I have observed, which were male-female.)

What do you say to a young woman who might encounter this kind of thing? First of all that she’s not imagining it, and if she feels uncomfortable, to listen to her feelings and stay away from him. If possible, don’t get him as an advisor. Don’t talk to him, unless in a professional setting and preferably with others present. And be straightforward: if you’re creeped out, speak up — to trusted faculty, to friends — and also to him. Take somebody with you if necessary. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Image result for male professor sexual harassmentI wish I could say that I saw some romantic relationships between professors and students turn out well. I know that they do turn out well sometimes. But the difference in power is so great, and the potential fallout so serious, that I can’t say that I could ever encourage such a relationship.  Now that we think of romantic relationships as partnerships, the attempt to partner with someone who is pretty much your boss can go terribly wrong.

“Don’t be Ugly”

by Belle Tuten

“I so sorry I was ugly.”Image result for little girl in a dress bow old 19th century

My cousin’s three-year-old daughter stood before me with solemn eyes peeking between her blond curls. She had some crumbs stuck to her lips.

She meant that she had taken and eaten the cereal O’s I had brought as a snack for my baby son. I said “That’s OK, honey,” and sent her on her way (valiantly not laughing).

It struck me that “Don’t be ugly” is what many Southern mothers say to their little girls (and sometimes to their little boys) when what they mean is “stop misbehaving” or “mind your manners.” It made me wonder what that phrase meant to girls, and to think about all it meant to me.

“Don’t be ugly” = don’t play rough games; don’t use strong language.

“Don’t be ugly” = don’t hit back.

“Don’t be ugly” = don’t smart off to your mother. Or your grandmama. Or the pastor.

“Don’t be ugly” = don’t argue with the teacher who thinks girls can’t do biology, math, science.

“Don’t be ugly” = don’t tell the music teacher that a boy comes into the practice room every day and harasses you. You’re pretty sure it must be that skirt you wore last week.

“Don’t be ugly” can mean “stop misbehaving,” or “mind your manners,” but it can also mean “don’t bring up uncomfortable subjects” or “don’t make a scene” or even “don’t tell the truth.” It can also mean “don’t do anything” even when someone else is doing or saying ugly things to you.

I can’t help remembering the scene in the Senate this past week, when Elizabeth Warren was, essentially, told not to be ugly to a fellow senator. The letter Sen. Warren wanted to read was later read out by four other senators, all male. Nobody told them, “Don’t be ugly.”

I decided to put that phrase aside forever.

I will do the activities and say the things that I want to say.

I will speak the truth; I may do it nicely, but I will do it.

I will not be silent when others are doing or saying ugly things.

I will do something. I will respond.

When ugliness is required, I will be ugly.

The Secret Life of a Secret Procrastinator

By Maddie Caso ’17

Most people see me in Founders lounge with my feet propped up on the coffee table in the lounge, hot chocolate in hand, and laptop open, my fingers clicking away on the keys.  And most people would assume that the telltale sound of keys on the keyboard means I am doing some kind of work for the seven classes I decided to take my last semester as an undergraduate.

I hate to shatter the illusion that has been created, but this is unfortunately not the case, as much as I wish it were.  Over the last four years I have carefully projected the image of a person always doing something, always working, always moving forward, always, always, always.  Instead I live and work in a world rarely spoken of, one of secret procrastination: here, I hide behind my computer screen and several stacks of books surrounding me, making people think I’m doing work, when I might really be scrolling through tumblr, reading a news article, or watching a video on YouTube.

I never intended to live in this world, truly.  I will graduate with honors, have been accepted into graduate school, and will have taken nine semester’s worthImage result for procrastination of classes in the eight that I’ve been at Juniata College.  By all rights, I should not be a procrastinator, and yet somehow I ended up being a person who doesn’t do my work when I should.

I know I’m procrastinating and that I shouldn’t because I am taking seven classes and working with several professors on important projects, projects that I am invested in and want to see through to the end.  I don’t want to disappoint the people I’m working with, so when I do sit down and work, I work as hard as I can, knowing that it is valuable to people, including myself.

Because I live in a world of secret procrastination, there isn’t anyone to tell me not to procrastinate.  And that’s the catch: I’m the only one that can stop my procrastinating ways because I’m a secret procrastinator that doesn’t want people to know about my procrastination problem, hence the secret procrastination.

Waiting to Have a Family

By Megan Neville, Educational Services Assistant for Humanities and Budget Officer for NSF & GCAT Grants at Juniata College.

Tick, tick, tick.  Can you hear that?  What is that? It grows louder and louder as my pulse increases.  Oh yes, the perpetual biological clock; constantly ticking away.  Growing louder in my ears, especially now as I recently hit the 40 mark.  Do I feel 40 years old?  No, no. That doesn’t seem possible. 27 was just a few years ago.  Oh wait.

Let’s face reality:  I am 40.  I put my career first before a family; just as several of my fellow female colleagues did as well.  I thought that was the right thing to do at the time. I had so much to do, to see.  I set goals for myself that I wished to accomplish.  Now I wonder… Did I make the right decision?  Will I pay the consequences for being an older wife or mother should that opportunity arise?  These are just a small sample of the millions of questions that float through my head throughout the day.  I now have quickly have come to recognize the “look” from my mother, my older friends and acquaintances that wonder why I’m not married and don’t have children yet.

So, what gives?  Why are women delaying their opportunity to have children until later?  Could it be that women as a whole, myself included, are opting to choose career over family?  Or is the family option still ever-present, just placed on the back-burner?  “There are so many factors involved.  First off, more young people are using effective contraceptives…that weren’t used in younger women initially.  More importantly, women are obtaining higher degrees and taking more time to achieve career goals, which means they are putting off having their first child until later,” (Kelly, 2016).

Women are finding that if they do wait to start a family, they potentially increase their own working class status through drive and diligence; working up the corporate ladder. Which in return, theoretically increases their economic situation for, not only themselves, but also in planning for their future.  Furthermore, by carving the path for others to follow, women who wait to begin their families are often in a higher position in which they may create “or set policies that they and their female employees would benefit from, like offering paid maternity and paternity leave or allowing flexible work schedules,” (Kincaid, 2015).  “Women want to accomplish specific goals, to have certain experiences, to be in a relationship with the right partner, to be financially and emotionally stable, or any combination of these factors,” (Gregory, 2007).

Looking back at my life, I’ve been very fortunate to have had incredible experiences where I’ve traveled all over the United States, traveled internationally, grown within the field of higher education by helping students and administrators, obtained an advanced degree (still weighing the options of pursuing my doctorate degree) and have made countless connections and friends all over the world that work within education.  I would never trade any of these experiences as they all have brought me to where I am now.  Yet, I question, am I missing out on the family factor?  A majority of my friends have had children and they are balancing being brilliant, working mothers.  They seem to have it together.  Would I as an older potential wife or mother be able to balance as easily as someone who might be younger?

As Gregory (2007) explains, women that begin families at a later age have several benefits; “There is a stronger family focus, as women greatly appreciate their children and the opportunity to have a family.  It is a desired factor.  Self-confidence is present as a result of accomplishments and self-confident women can be especially able advocates and models for kids.  Studies continue to show that older mothers could potentially have fewer health issues and add life longevity.  In addition, older mothers are often much more stable financially than their younger counterparts, which therefore reduces stress levels in both parenting as well as marriage.”

There are disadvantages that must be examined as well.  The most obvious reduced fertility rates.  It is a proven fact that women’s fertility rates begin to fall at the age of 32.  It decreases again between the ages of 35 to 37 and falls again sharply after the ages of 40 to 44.  However, fertility is not impossible.  In addition, alternative options such as adoption and in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be possible.  Kincaid (2015) writes, “Miscarriages and a number of complications due to pregnancy, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure are more common for women over the age of 35.”  However, multiple doctors have stated that with monitored, frequent check-ups, healthy pregnancies may be achieved.  Gregory (2007) goes on to say that another disadvantage of being an older parent is having smaller families.  Due to the fact that women start later, they are limited in the number of children to which they may give birth.  Many couples often stop with just one.  Finally, there is another obvious factor that “older mothers could have lower energy levels.  However, many new parents respond by working harder to stay fit,” (Gregory, 2007).

We can clearly see there are pros and cons to both sides of the story.  Either way, women, as a whole, are having children at a later age.  This is largely due to the fact that career paths are chosen first and personal and professional goals are set to be accomplished.  Is this a bad thing?  In my humble opinion, not in the least.  Women are becoming more independent and self-sufficient, finding that they can live a fulfilled and successful life as a single.  However, for others, family life continues to be desired.  So, the pinnacle, personal question comes into play:  Would I be ready to be a wife or mother?  After conducting the research for this blog and with careful debate, I definitely would consider, with the right partner.  Keeping true to my stance since I was a young girl, I never give up hope and I never let anyone tell me that my dreams or goals cannot be achieved.  We shall see…

 

References

Gregory, Elizabeth, 2007, Ready: Why Women Are Embracing The New Later Motherhood, Basic Books, Pgs. 8-10, 12-26.

Kelly, Johnna, 2016, American women waiting longer to have kids, http://www.ahchealthenews.com/2016/01/20/american-women-waiting-longer-to-have-kids/, accessed 1/27/17.

Kincaid, Ellie, 2015, Business Insider: Why having kids later is a really big deal, http://www.businessinsider.com/why-delaying-parenthood-and-having-kids-later-is-a-big-deal-2015-6. Accessed 1/27/17.

“You are so nice.” Emotional Intelligence in Our Professional Lives

by Kati Csoman, Dean of International Programs

I often hear this from people, which may seem like a compliment at first.  However, my experience is that “You are so nice!” is sometimes a veiled assertion about my abilities as a woman in a position of leadership.  “So nice” is code language for the perception that I may not possess the wherewithal to make tough decisions or to have difficult conversations.

Throughout our lives, many women are socialized to be nuanced and respectful in our interactions with others.  We are often expected to be indirect in our speech so as to not appear to be too forceful, too opinionated or too discomforting.  We are taught to play nice.  But being genuinely nice is not a gender-specific attribute, nor should it be perceived as coming from a place of weakness.  My idea of the concept of being nice is that one is authentic and strives in all interactions to understand the authenticity of others.   Simply put, know who you are and how it is that you can interact with others as they are.

Practicing emotional intelligence in the workplace appears to be vastly undervalued.  Too often, the inability to engage in honest conversation acknowledging someone else’s feelings or perceptions is misappropriated under the guise of “professionalism.”  It does not make us less effective in our work if we acknowledge the humanity of someone else.

Image result for mr rogers senateThe most influential practitioner of emotional intelligence was Mr. Fred Rogers, the renowned and respected child psychologist and famed television host of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”  And one of the best examples of Mr. Rogers in action was his ability within six minutes to recover $20 million dollars in funding for public television at a U.S. Senate hearing in 1969: https://youtu.be/yXEuEUQIP3Q.

Among the many profound ideas that Mr. Rogers expressed in his testimony was the idea that “feelings are mentionable and manageable.”  Emotional intelligence requires great discipline as we overcome our own egos to become deeply introspective and to be in control of our thoughts, feelings and reactions as we interact with others.  You can be steadfast in your convictions.  You can be persistent in achieving your goals.  At the same time, you can acknowledge someone else’s opinions or way of wanting to do something.

Too often, strength is perceived as loudness and forcefulness.  Strength can also be expressed through calm and measured action and interaction.  I believe deeply that if we could engage in more open dialogue in professional settings about how we feel about behavior, actions, and decisions, we might more readily address interpersonal conflicts that are often at the root of ineffective relationships in the workplace.  It is naïve to think that emotional intelligence should and can be dismissed from our professional lives.  We are human.

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” (The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember)