Picture this: you’re studying after an exhausting day of classes and receive an email notification from your internship coordinator with the subject line: “Please Respond ASAP: A BTrip Opportunity.” You open it, read through the details, do some research, and excitedly respond, “Count me in!” The trip aimed to engage in civil discourse, build interpersonal and networking skills, engage in challenges that require critical thinking, and fellowship over different cuisines.
As if meeting a bunch of millennials and GenZers wasn’t compelling enough, learning that I’d have the chance to meet executives and participate in professional workshops also enhanced my enthusiasm.
Admittedly, I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect, especially when I heard the phrase civil discourse. With so much occurring worldwide and my upbringing greatly influencing me (I identify as a southern Black gay man), my voice hasn’t always been heard or well-received in some spaces. These past encounters planted seeds of fear, doubt, and rejection, which caused me to have a preconceived notion that my views were insufficient. Hesitantly, I still agreed to participate in the trip but with a determined spirit. My goal was not to allow these thoughts to get the best of me and use my voice while in D.C.
From night one, a delicious Mediterranean dinner at Zaytinya’s, to day two, a D.E.I. and B. workshop hosted by elite educators and researchers; from night two, a surprise improv class with a spunky acting coach, to day three, walking the halls of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) with members of the Biden Administration: during all of these encounters, I found myself engaged, listening, learning, and growing.
The ambiance of the group was so infectious that it curated friendships and undeniable support systems. Each day felt affirming and reminded me that I belong in these spaces; my voice matters, and my representation is necessary. A critical takeaway was that some conversations might be challenging, but the mutual airing of views is still ascertainable with tact and understanding. Conflict isn’t the problem; it’s natural, and everyone should embrace it. How one chooses to respond to conflict is what trips us up.
If you’re reading this and are afraid to engage in civil discourse, take it from me when I say it’s not half bad. Civil discourse is about honesty, being cognitive of your tone, being attentive, actively listening, not interrupting, trying to find similarities, and always having supporting evidence for your claims. Hot-button issues don’t have to be distasteful and should always end with mutual understanding and respect, even if that means disagreeing.
Now that I’ve witnessed it firsthand, I am positive that our society is incrementally increasing civil discourse. I am even more confident that members of communities such as NMGZ are, or will be, facilitating these conversations.
I’m incredibly thankful to my NMGZ family and the executives for carving spaces that support the broadening of purviews. Another underlying goal for the trip was to dispel myths and misconceptions about millennials and GenZers.
With the grace exuding from civil discourse, that was an overt success. I look forward to many more experiences to come. Cheers to increasing civil discourse!