The Power of Diversity

When I was asked to write this post — an article on diversity and the benefits of diversity — I paused. What a heavy topic!

As an admission counselor, I frequently tout our diversity and talk to applicants and their families about the importance of living and learning with others different from ourselves. But what do we mean by “diverse”? Or “multicultural”?

Put simply, diversity refers to the differences among a population. The power of diversity lies in the idea that it gives everyone a voice. Ironically though, diversity highlights our similarities more than our differences.

When we are all able to contribute, in positive and uplifting ways, we start to understand and know more about those that may seem, at first, very different from us. Through these interactions, we see that we are all quite similar. And statistics like only one in every 1,000 DNA differs among our nucleotide start to make sense. When we connect and humanize one another, conflicts — even wars — have the power to be alleviated.

I could go on, I want to let our students speak. I profiled students with two very different backgrounds and asked them to answer question that one would deem important “life questions”:

lemon-banner

Mariama Lemon ’20

Background:

  • Goes by the nickname “Lemon”
  • From the Bronx
  • Has a twin sister
  • Dancer
  • Excited to try new things at WMS (White water kayaking, check! Jumping off a cliff, check!)

What do you want most out of life?

“A comfortable life for me and my family … to be at a point where my mom and dad are happy and worry-free.”

What has been the happiest moment of your life?

“Getting into Oliver Scholars [a program that prepares high-achieving Black and Latino students for success at top independent high schools and prestigious colleges] for and experiencing opportunity first-hand — the ability to grasp and attain something more.”

How would you spend your last year?

Traveling, learning, exploring, experiencing, volunteering and giving back.”

If you were given only a few minutes to live, who would you have your last conversation with?

“My twin sister.”

Banner Cole ’18

Background:

  • Born in Washington, D.C.
  • Spent four years living in China
  • Has a younger brother, Taggart ’20
  • Enjoys Type 2 fun and experiencing unknown and untapped places

What do you want most out of life?

To be one of a few to explore or go somewhere and do things very few people can do and have done. This has inspired my love for the outdoors.”

What has been the happiest moment of your life?

Coming and going home (wherever that may be).”

How would you spend your last year?

“Learning, understanding how others live and view the world, seeking knowledge from the Dalai Lama.”

If you were given only a few minutes to live, who would you have your last conversation with?

My dad.”

 

In the midst of their differences, Lemon and Banner are also very much alike. Many of their answers resonate with each other and also with answers I suspect many of us would give. It is through diversity that we find power in how we relate, and we start to see how, as Maya Angelou famously wrote, “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

Research suggests that there are four basic human emotions: happy, sad, afraid/surprised, angry/disgusted. We all feel those emotions. We all laugh. We all cry. We all bleed. We all breathe. Hurt is hurt. Joy is joy. I feel the insufferable pain with the loss of a loved one and the comfort and security in feeling loved and accepted. When we start to see our connectivity as a human race, we start to hold, within our grasp, the power to change the world. This is diversity.

As we embark upon the year here at WMS, I encourage us to focus on and embrace the similarities among us rather than the differences. Let us be curious, courageous and compassionate in this challenge.

Read more:
New research says there are only four emotions via The Atlantic
All human behavior can be reduced to ‘four basic emotions’ via BBC News

By Sarah Wilfred, Director of Multicultural Recruitment and Associate Director of Admission

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