A dear friend of mine asked me to write a piece for the 175th anniversary of her college. The school was one of the first in our nation to accept, include and support students of every gender, race, creed or socio-economic status. It was one of the first to truly embrace diversity. While researching what made this small school in the heart of my home state quite special, I realized that much of its historical profundity was just as provocative and relevant back then as today. The power of diversity, and the forethought that this school maintained in recognizing that power, spun my heart and soul into an exploration of contrast within our life experience.
If we are all human having an earthly adventure as the same species, with far more fundamental similarities than differences, then it is our individually unique qualities that allow for the most progress, the most profound productivity. For, diversity is innovation. Celebrating a school’s willingness to embrace, accept and empower people of every gender, race, creed or socio-economic status from it’s inception 175 years ago, gives us the opportunity to remember that what we are actually celebrating is the school’s “radical” recognition of one of life’s most basic truths, that our differences are our greatest assets to creativity, ingenuity, transformation.
We are all life-long learners on an earthly quest to sift, sort and eventually find what lights us up, supremely. In doing so, we find out who we are, how we are, and what we want. The best education comes from being in a supportive environment full of resources from which we can choose what we want to explore. And before many other universities, businesses, governments, even countries, this small but avant-guard school was offering an environment surrounded by inclusive support, free from the narrow-minded, short-sighted bigotry held by much of the rest of our nation, our world at the time. Even today, nearly two centuries after the fact, we still face painful reminders opposite of the intrinsic truth that open hearts and progressive minds cultivate absolute genius.
We have the opportunity in every moment to embrace the diversity around us; to love that which differs from ourselves; to recognize that diversity ignites creativity. Diversity sparks invention. Diversity leads directly to innovation. And those of us that choose to recognize, embrace and cultivate these truths will remain forefront on the quest to change the world for the better.
We are all in this together…and together we rise.
Polo REO Tate was born in Lansing, Michigan, where her family has deep ties to the community. Her Great Great Grandfather was Ransom Eli Olds (R.E. Olds), a pioneer and prolific inventor most notably responsible for inventing the first internal combustion automobile—the Oldsmobile. Growing up, [...]