Graduates should bridge gaps rather than dig them deeper

With graduation approaching, many of us now turn our focus to what we will actually be doing with these educated minds of ours. After all, education is the vehicle that led us into college, and it will lead us down the road to the rest of our lives.

It will take some of us into politics and the combative intersection of liberal and conservative values. For those driving the cause of women’s or gay rights, they will have to traverse the crossing of traditional and progressive values. Others will be steered toward immigration issues and the path to better lives. Some will pursue personal gains or societal needs on the avenues of business and economics, while others will explore the bordering fields of energy and environment.

Each of these areas include hot buttons of their own, as each are hardwired to our values and ideals that may conflict with those of half the population.

What we already know is that our nation is polarized in many ways with ample demonstrations of divisiveness. The sad part is that while there are many voices crying out for bipartisanship and functional compromise, it is demonizing through vitriol that too often rules the day. Equally sad is that while many people wish it were different, many people ride the status quo.

To make any headway, it is up to us to do our part by infusing our fresh energy and ideas into the ongoing “battlegrounds.” This does not mean engaging in naiveté, expecting that everything will just work itself out. It does call for a reasoned conviction, however, that most certainly holds to our own deeply held values while considering and respecting the different backgrounds and viewpoints of others. For as much as we expect to be understood by the “other” side, so too does that other side expect the same thing from “us.”

In short, we want respect for our own values, but are we willing to give it back?

From a counseling perspective, every rough relationship has different parties whom have ceased to be invested in empathizing with their partner. Consequently, neither side gets what it wants without getting bloodied in the process. It is only when we dare to understand the other side that we begin to see why they feel and think as they do. This first step leads to the bridge that will foster healing and mutual happiness.
We all entered college knowing that our world is divided enough.

Are we now going to use our newfound knowledge as a tool to drive the wedges further into that which divides us?

Or will we use the enlightenment of our education to propel us into finding ways to bring us together?

Just like the city buses that bring students to and from the university, education truly is the vehicle that can, and will, take us to new places – but it remains our choice how we apply it once we get there. So now that we are getting our degrees and are about to step out of the bus at these different intersections to change the world as we see fit, the question remains: Where do you get off thinking like that?

Mark Olivieri is a senior psychology major and a contributing writer for the Daily 49er

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