I woke up this morning after a very interesting week of travels and a trending topic that has hit social media over the last 24 hours and thought I would comment.
To give everyone a bit of my background. I grew up in Salamanca, NY. Many people know Salamanca for a few things. One, to get to Salamance, the exit you get off the highway to get there takes you through Holiday Valley and Ellicotville, NY. Second , it is now home to a large Native American casino. Salamanca is the home to the Seneca Nation Native American Indian Tribe. Growing up within the Native American Culture, I guess I never realized that there was a huge difference with the Caucasian race and the Native American’s as it was just something we grew up with, something that was there, but at least as a kid never really paid attention to. Besides the two different races, there really was not much more diversity there. I never really had experience living along with other cultures, religions or races until I went to Edinboro University.
Upon my arrival on the Edinboro University campus for my first day of football camp, I was immediately thrown into an environment of different cultures and races. It was amazing though how quickly I got over that shock. My guess is that it was because of the commonality that we all had, one mission, the goal of winning. During my four years of playing football, I made some good friendships with friends of different races, cultures, etc.
Fast forward to the current week. My colleague, Tracy Stross and I traveled to Detroit (talk about a hot bed of different races, cultures, religions, social economic solutions, etc.) for a business meeting with a former Edinboro football teammate, Rick Walker, and his associate. Rick reached out to me a month or so ago after years of non-communication due to various reasons, mostly just us moving on to different places. It turns out that Rick and I share a lot of things in common. Our history at The ‘Boro, but our love for entrepreneurship and building relationships to grow our businesses.
One of the most interesting things as we looked around the table was the differences that we all shared, yet we were all there working on a common cause, bringing different ideas and perspectives and at the end of the day walking away knowing we would all be business partners well into the future. To paint a picture, there was myself, a 39 year old, white male who grew up on a Native American reservation. There was Rick Walker, who is a 39 year old black male who grew up in a primarily black neighborhood in the city of Pittsburgh. Also, there was Nina Abuabakari, a black female lawyer who grew up in Detroit and Tracy Stross, a white female that grew up in the Warren, OH area. At one point in time, we actually joked about how different we all look, yet are all still driven and not afraid to work with someone who looks physically different than you. What a cool and incredible feeling it is when people can come together and at the end of the day ultimately respect each other regardless of their differences.
This brings me to last Wednesday evening. Every year, I dress up as Santa and visit various friends families with small children. It admittedly is a pain in the ass and hot as hell, however watching the little kids is an incredible rewarding experience and something I love to do. This evening brought an even more interesting spin to this. I volunteered to visit the family of a very good friend of my wife, Nada. Nada is a native of Egypt and is Muslim. I know that this is interesting that a Muslim would be allowing Santa Claus to visit her house, as the Muslim Community does not celebrate Christmas, But, how cool is this that they are willing to celebrate different cultures and religions simply so that their children could see that differences are not bad. Even better was that Nada had her sister and two other Muslim families attend the celebration as well. This was a very cool and enlightening experience, which I will always cherish that they allowed us to celebrate with them.
Now, fast forward to this morning and waking up to the hot story of Phil Robertson of the A&E show “Duck Dynasty” and his controversial comment. I admittedly watch the show and enjoy the quirkiness of the family. I will also be the first to admit that their Christian beliefs often turn me off, however, those are their beliefs and who am I to judge, I can look past it. If you don’t know; Phil expressed his views on the gay community and was suspended by A&E for his views in the GQ article. Now, I disagree that A&E should suspend him as they knew going in what they were going to get from this family and their strict Christian beliefs. I also believe that Phil has the right to express what he believes. But, with those words, you will be judged.
So as I woke up this morning, I thought, how much easier it would be if Phil simply opened up his mind and just accepted people for who they were. What if he did not judge, or perceive a whole group of people based on one belief or the next? Maybe sit down, have a conversation and discuss the differences. We should teach each other that bringing differences together often times, leads to better solutions in the future. It would open up his kid’s minds, and their kid’s m.1inds that being different can and should be embraced. What a different world would be if we broke down the walls and the stereotypes! No different than my meetings in Detroit – positive and awesome things could happen!!