Why We Went to Gettysburg 2012

When someone looks back on their life, they often think about the kind of influences that brought them to where they are now.

Many believe that a person’s actions define who they are; while others might believe one's actions to be the the result of one's heritage.

Through my experiences with 'The Diversity of Heritage' this year, I have come to understand that it is both.

Each and every individual in the world has a story and this year, I have heard twelve.

At the start of the project year in September, I thought a lot about what "heritage" exactly meant. I knew that the overall premise was about something that is inherited and/or passed down through generations.

However, as I listened to and learned from the twelve speakers, I discovered that heritage was more than just a tradition.

'Heritage' is life.

Whether it’s being blind or deaf, being born a different size or race, religion, or having a traumatic experience that will forever affect one's life: one's heritage shapes the way we interact with the world.

In striving to understand how we react to the differences in all of us, I’ve learned through our sexual violence training that we often use 'identifiers.' This technique categorizes people into boxes that better enable our ability to make sense of the many characteristics that make us different from one another.

By compartmentalizing people with identifiers: I believe that we should be both aware and cautious and, I suggest, take a step back - so we can better appreciate the reality faced by all walks of life.

We come from so many diverse backgrounds that a person may never fully understand someone else. Yet, no matter the size, or the race, or experiences shared or not: all of us are deserving of the most positive and best experiences life has to offer.

As we depart to Gettysburg and D.C., two places rich with history and heritage, my hope for the Scholars and I is to be able to strive for understanding and acceptance of the people we meet.

No matter our differences, we can come together as one.

- Sydney Lawrence, Senior Veteran Scholar
The McLean County Diversity Project

McLean County Diversity Project   c/o Jeffrey A. Schwartz   PO Box 58   Downs, IL  61736

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