I was given the gracious opportunity to see the forty-second president of America, President Bill Clinton, in person at an event put on by the St. Louis Speaker Series, presented by Maryville University.
President Clinton started off his talk by asking the audience, “What does it mean to be an American in the twenty-first century?” He mentioned how progressive America is getting to be, and how more open-minded the population is getting — for some slowly but steadily.
He spoke of the issue that Americans face: a “zero-sum gain,” as a result of nobody agreeing with each other, which he responded to by suggesting that Americans engage in discussions together to gain better perspectives on one another’s lives.
Reflecting nostalgically to his childhood in a small town in Arkansas, Clinton noted the ways his family had impacted the way he treats people. “You never know what somebody is going through,” and he is right. Too many Americans have been lost in the bubble that is their own lives, and we have lost our very human nature of empathy, our understanding of other human lives.
On the subject of empathy, Clinton brings up that the current town he resides in Virginia, depends heavily on immigrants, for their hard work and their dedication to America that makes them valuable to our country. “It’s not what America can do them; it’s what they can do for America,” a very humbling thought in respect to the immigrants. As the daughter of two Asian immigrants herself, this feeling rang true to me. However, those who stand in the position of anti-immigration may not personally know any immigrants themselves, which leads them to believe the exaggerations and lies of the media of the “danger” of immigrants. America was founded by immigrants, who desired to leave their native country to find a better opportunity, so why are we denying other people opportunities? Have we become so detached from the concept of loving people that the idea of a father or a mother working just as hard as we are to feed their family seems ridiculous to us?
“I believe in inclusive politics, inclusive economics, inclusive societies, and active citizenships,” Clinton reaffirmed the audience.
He even mentioned Black Panther, a movie that was just released on February 16, 2018, that has already topped $600M in box office sales. (Spoiler alert?) He said, “you know what… we learned that the good guys weren’t all perfect and the bad guys weren’t all that bad.” And that may as well be the case.
We have to remember that not every American has the same level of education or the same kind of community around them, so not everybody is going to have a level of understanding of how important gender identity means to someone or why religion is so important to some people. We all are in different stages of our lives, each coming from different levels of privileges, and all going through various challenges and trifles. Ignorance is no longer acceptable. We have the responsibility as American citizens to listen to our brothers and sisters.
In America, we hate being wrong, but it isn’t about being correct. This is enough. When has being right gotten us anywhere? Instead of verbally attacking somebody, we should sit down with them and come from a place of compassion to help them to feel what you are feeling.
Instead of building walls, we need to start taking them down among us. I only found myself thinking that we need to change. We need to converse with our fellow Americans. We need to extend past our comfort zones and place ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We need to learn. This goes for any American: liberal, moderate, or conservative. We all need to work together and listen to the underprivileged, the poor, and the oppressed voices.
We need to feel again, America. We are human, and we need to feel.