inurbanity 1 / - Oct 12, 2012 #1I have 20 words to combine these two ideas in an effective way... am I staying on prompt?Lessons Beyond PoliticsGrowing up and living in North Philadelphia has provided me with insight that transcends borders. In my neighborhood, dozens of languages are spoken and cultural stores representing exotic places such as Cambodia, Nigeria, and Colombia line the main commercial corridor. Different in so many ways but similar in being working class, such a community has blessed me with the opportunity to learn about cultures from around the world.Attending school in a city like Philadelphia further opened my eyes to an innumerable amount of perspectives. Beginning in high school, I befriended people living both in ritzy downtown neighborhoods and former industrial areas even more decayed than my own. I took interest in school clubs and student government, oftentimes finding myself being the only African-American involved, let alone African-American male. I found that in often being the only person of lower socioeconomic status, I had a unique perspective to offer. Working with private school students on the Obama campaign, founding my High School Democrats chapter, and discussing issues of national significance further allowed me to acquire a wealth of perspectives. I found my personal values being crafted and refined through discourse with people of different backgrounds and experiences.I learned most about the importance of diversity last spring, when I attended the Junior State of America's Mid-Atlantic Spring State Convention with my school's chapter. That weekend, I heard ideas that challenged and forced me to examine my own beliefs concerning government's role in society. One debate regarding the constitutionality of provisions in the Affordable Care Act allowing women access to contraceptives was particularly perplexing. The opposing speaker argued that contraceptives were cheap and those who couldn't afford them shouldn't put themselves in the position to need them. To me, this argument made no sense to me; I saw unplanned pregnancies occurring most in poor neighborhoods like my own! In my own debate, someone speaking in my resolution's favor argued that higher education was a right, a position that shocked me. Coming from a family struggling to make ends meet while sending a child to college, I pondered as to when hundred thousand dollar debts became inalienable.The significance of the lessons I learned that weekend go beyond politics. For the first time, I experienced new political perspectives, ones I didn't agree with. I heard opinions from people inhabiting both rural areas and wealthy suburbs. The assortment of ideas regarding limited government and the role of religion in government challenged what I'd always known. Ultimately, I realized that while my life had been filled with cultural diversity, the homogeneity in the political views of those surrounding me stymied my ability to understand and empathize with people of differing fiscal and economic views. Gandhi once said, "Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding." That weekend, I learned the importance of diversity. If differences are understood and celebrated, intolerance can be eviscerated.