The Institute for Leadership, Ethics, Achievement and Development (iLEAD) hosted its second International Dinner and Dialogue in the Gelles Conference Room on Feb. 9. Six students representing Nigeria, Spain, Lithuania, Iran and various African countries were present, as well as Tirrany Thurmond, the director of the Center for Student Diversity.
The purpose of the dinner and dialogue was to focus on diversity and celebrating heritage. The evening began with an Irish prayer read by iLEAD Director Dana Sauers, who is of Irish descent, and was followed by the guests mingling over a dinner of soup and bread. The dinner was followed by dessert, which included a cake decorated with miniature flags from around the world. The simple design of the cake was made to represent the interconnectivity of humanity in spite of our different backgrounds.
The dialogue began after everyone finished eating. Each guest had a folder in front of them with a name tag that had their name and country on it. Underneath each name tag was a brief description of the country, including its flag, geography and population. Each folder contained a copy of the AuthaGraph World Map, a copy of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, a simplified version of the declaration and a copy of “The Mystery of Friendship” from “Anam Cara” by John O’Donohue.
Sauers opened the discussion with the World Map, which attempts to show a realistic drawing of the world on a two-dimensional plane. The purpose of starting the dialogue with this map was to challenge the paradigms and the stereotypes people often have of the world. Michael Hoover, Associate Director of iLEAD, followed up this discussion with the Declaration of Human Rights. The guests took turns reading the 30 declarations from the simplified sheet aloud, ending with the powerful, “No one can take away your human rights.”
Each person then had the opportunity to share their heritage and personal experiences with the group. Some people chose to say a few words in their native language. Every person’s story was interesting and unique on a different level. Some guests talked about how they got to Mount St. Mary’s and America, while other guests talked about their families and memories from other countries. This was the most poignant moment of the evening.
“The experience of getting to know people of all sorts of cultures was really mind-opening,” said first-year Joseph Contreras from Spain, when asked what he liked about the evening.
Yasaman Babamohammadi, a first-year student from Iran, added, “We’re all getting together and having these conversations, and I think that’s really important.”
Uzdamaka Nwafor, a senior from Nigeria, summarized the night perfectly by saying it was the first real “passport” she received at the Mount.