As a part of its Tacking Tough Topics Together series, the Council for Equity and Community hosted a session allowing council members and students to openly discuss patriotism on Oct. 27.
Lori Friedman, Lehigh’s director of media relations, said the council felt the topic of patriotism is relevant and would lead to constructive conversation because of people’s differing opinions.
Members of the Council for Equity and Community discussed what it means to be patriotic, how patriotism is shaped and how it has changed over time for individuals. Each question elicited a variety of responses from the attendees.
For example, discussion about public figures who embody patriotism ranged from past presidents of the United States to actors. Students said recent mass shootings and acts of terror are events that have shaped their view of patriotism, while faculty members referenced the Sept. 11 attacks as the main event that affected their patriotism.
Discussion participants offered their own definitions of patriotism.
“Patriotism is loving your country and wanting it to be the best that it can be,” Jenny Lee, ’21, said.
Nicholas Silva, ’21, described patriotism as citizens being proud of the country they live in.
For some, the current political climate affects their view of patriotism.
Lee said many people, regardless of political stance, could agree that the country isn’t in a place to be proud of. She thinks people belonging to one side of the political spectrum will always be more content than those belonging elsewhere on the spectrum.
Silva described current politics as entertainment rather than actual politics.
“You can’t even use political terms because it’s not politics anymore,” Silva said.
Both Lee and Silva’s parents are immigrants — Lee’s parents come from Korea while Silva’s are from Ecuador. The students feel stronger ties to American culture and values but recognize how intertwined their native culture is.
“I’m Ecuadorian, but I do feel more American,” Silva said. “I appreciate (Ecuador’s) culture and I keep up to date with events and elections.”
Lee said she is “in tune with her heritage and culture,” but her core beliefs align more with American customs than Korean culture.
“I don’t like how some Koreans use their culture to excuse certain behavior,” Lee said.
She said she doesn’t agree with how xenophobic and nativist Korean culture can be.
The Council for Equity and Community’s education and dialogue committee created the Tackling Tough Topics Together series as a way to encourage dialogue on topics that can otherwise be difficult to discuss openly.
“We wanted to give everyone a chance to reach to the other side and talk with others who have differing ideas,” Friedman said.
The Council for Equity and Community also hosts these discussions as a way to share the Guidelines for Effective Dialogue developed by VISIONS, Inc. with as much of campus as possible. These guidelines include trying on others’ ideas, talking about personal experiences instead of generalizing, and being aware of how things are said and how they may affect others.
Friedman said these guidelines are used to promote a safe environment where people can share their thoughts without fear of being attacked, shamed or blamed.
“People felt open to sharing their thoughts and listening to others,” she said.
Previous topics included having safe spaces on campus, sharing privilege and hardship, and freedom of speech on campus.
The Council for Equity and Community hopes to see others taking the reins when it comes to having these difficult conversations. They’d like to see student organizations or faculty come with topics they can introduce to the rest of the Lehigh community.
The council also hopes more faculty and administration attend events and share their viewpoints, as there are few events where those groups have a chance to engage with students.
“My hope would be that it would be a more frequent and better attended event,” Friedman said. “Every week there are tough topics that could be tackled.”