The Stand in Solidarity Club Pilots Courageous Conversations at Formal Dinner

Daisy (Kahn ‘18) is a student co-founder and representative of Blair’s “Stand in Solidarity” club. This year the SIS club is piloting a new program, “Courageous Conversations.” Below, Daisy shares about her experience in starting the club as well as the conversations the program hopes to facilitate.

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Courageous Conversations: let’s enter that uncomfortable space where people who disagree on important issues talk with and listen to one another in order to understand each other better. We all already do this with varying degrees of skill and consideration. How do we become better partners in respectful, productive conversations? Let’s empower each other to bring about positive social change, one conversation at a time, starting at Formal Dinner.

It’s not news that our society is politically polarized. A discussion of why could fill volumes. But to me, the causes stem from the failure to remember a lesson we all learned in Kindergarten: to work and play well with one another. Too many people talk at others, not with them.

Last year I witnessed this at our school. A transgender woman came to Blair as a guest speaker, and some students refused to attend, preferring to be marked absent; some referred to her as “it” and “a thing with a mental illness.” I’ll never forget being verbally attacked by my peers just for asking, “Why won’t you hear her story?”

I’m grateful that my history teacher, Mr. Beck, indulged my request to suspend the day’s lesson so that we could talk about our personal reactions to that guest speaker. It gave rise to an important conversation about whose stories have a right to be told.

Last year, during the midst of the controversy, I went into Lena (Srun ’19) and Ugochi’s (Amadi ’19) room with the idea to create a club that would support human beings across differences. They were excited to collaborate on this initiative, which we named Stand in Solidarity (SIS).

This year, SIS is hosting round table discussions during Formal Dinner about pressing issues, such as Pro-Life vs Pro Choice, cultural appropriation vs. appreciation, the Second Amendment, LGBTQ+ rights vs religious freedom, free speech vs. hate speech, the sexualization of female vs male bodies, and Affirmative Action.

Creating space for these discussions gives students the opportunity to speak with peers they may not often talk to about difficult issues that are often left unaddressed. The goal is to facilitate discussions among people with opposing perspectives, so that students can form and practice the skills of engaging in deep listening without judgement and asking questions in an attempt to gain understanding and find common ground.

If you are interested in participating in Courageous Conversations’ next rotation, contact kahnd@blair.edu.