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 Commentary: National Week of Conversation

By Margaret Savoie, Thomas Lee and Haughton Mann

Integrated Marketing Communication Graduate Students

19,898 students believe in the UM Creed. 19,898 students believe in ‘respect for the dignity of each person.’ Each of us has made a commitment to listen, to seek to understand, to acknowledge a person is more than the sum of their beliefs. 

Hear from three IMC Graduate Students enrolled in IMC 559 sharing their experiences and the importance of National Week of Conversation – a week-long campaign demonstrating that Americans can and want to engage across differences to mend our frayed social fabric. 

Margaret: Growing up in south Louisiana, most of my family members and peers had similar political beliefs. As a result, we often talked about politics. This created my desire to study this area in college. Based on my experiences growing up, I assumed I could share my political opinions. That was not the case. For many semesters, I morphed my views to fit those of my professors just so my grades would not suffer. During my senior year, I finally felt comfortable sharing my views because I had others who shared my beliefs and would back me up. Now that I have had two courses as a graduate student focused on “bridge building,” I can attest to the importance of actually listening to what “the other side” has to say. People are still people regardless of what they happen to believe based on their specific life experiences. We should not dehumanize them just because we think differently. 

Thomas: Labels have defined my entire life. Coming from a biracial household, I never realized how blessed I was to experience diversity of culture and thought. As I grew up, I remember the political conversations that took my home by storm on salient issues relating to gun rights, immigration, and education. Now, it’s gotten difficult to engage in conversations with my peers on anything political in nature. Politics have entrenched our communities and have left people viewing each other as labels rather than seeing each other as humans. This led me to enroll in IMC 559 to help provide students with the tools needed to have healthy conversations. 

Haughton: Being from a heavily conservative area, I have experienced mostly one-sided beliefs and ideals. Until college, I did not think much about politics, much less differing sides and national tendencies toward polarization mainly because I wasn’t directly affected. When I started college, my eyes were open to the vast diversity of viewpoints and experiences that define the American experiment. Whether this was conversations in classrooms or reading social media posts, I saw a much more divided world, something that was an important part of my growth and of who I am today. I am thankful for my exposure to opposing sides and to a felt ability to form my own beliefs. That newfound agency was much different from what I experienced growing up. Without coming to the University of Mississippi, I would likely not have been as open to others’ opinions, nor would I understand them. IMC 559 has given me the tools to listen before reacting. These are tools everyone should have and utilize, I am very thankful for this class! 

Each of us has learned, in our own ways, that not everyone thinks the same. Maybe this isn’t earth shattering to you, or perhaps you are just learning these lessons. Either way, you are invited to make a difference by listening and respecting different beliefs by participating in the kick-off event for National Week of Conversation. Register for dinner and a movie on April 17 at the Jackson Avenue Center here.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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