Relationships, positivity, compassion, and the pursuit of truth are ideals that I believe exist at the core of civility and within all “good.”
At the end of my junior year at Leon High School, I ran for Student Body President with a goal of serving my school and living out my campaign slogan of “We are Leon.” I walked around campus carrying a red frame and asking students to take pictures with me that would be displayed in the Leon lobby. Who didn’t want to hop in a selfie? Pictures broke down barriers, they initiated simple and short conversation, they broke the ice with groups I wasn’t already friends with.
After a week or so of pictures, it struck me that the only three people who politely said, “No” when I asked to take a picture with them, all happened to be African-American young men. Plenty of black guys jumped at the picture idea, tons of girls, and every high school “clique” in between, but these three for some reason didn’t. Still winning the campaign and hoping to live up to my goals, these three boys loomed in my mind. What did I still need to do to embrace and interact with every Leon student? What barrier still needed to be broken down at my school?
Summer passed and the first day of senior year began with my first-period teacher showing a TedTalk titled, “The Dangers of a Single Story,” by author, Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie. She made the cogent point that you cannot fully understand a group of people without first engaging with all of their individual stories. This message motivated me as I finished my time at Leon High School.
It motivates me today and every day. Relationships, positivity, compassion, and the pursuit of truth are ideals that I believe exist at the core of civility and within all “good.” These ideas brought me to the Village Square and allow me to see that where we are in the world right now is not totally “good.” It is not all bad either. And it is up to each of us to look inward, seek out those stories, and change our communities one small step at a time. Together. With civility and love.
Caroline Kirk is starting her 2nd year at The University of Virginia. She interned with The Village Square Summer 2018 and is a continual voice of inspiration for our Respect and Rebellion project. Click here to learn more.