This past April I had the pleasure of welcoming the Dialogue Institute of Southwest Kansas City to the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus for their 11th Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner. The annual event celebrates the importance of inclusion and the value of embracing diversity, so I was delighted UMKC was able to serve as host.
The mission of the Dialogue Institute is to promote mutual understanding, respect and cooperation among people of diverse faiths and cultures. They do that by creating opportunities for direct communication and meaningful shared experiences.
At UMKC, we value these same things. We demonstrate that by making those values a fundamental component of the education of our community’s professional workforce. We do it by collaborating with community partners on urban issues and education. We also accomplish this by maintaining a highly diverse faculty, staff and student body.
The Friendship Dinner was more than a meal and meeting. It was the opportunity to raise much-needed funds for the organization. It was also a way to publicly recognize and appreciate the hard work of the past and to revive ourselves for the future.
I don’t have to tell you that we are living in trying times. From Syria and Belgium to Columbia and Ferguson, Missouri, we see signs of anger, division and violence. At the dinner, though, I saw hope. I saw many different facets of our community. As we celebrated our diversity, we were reminded of the many ways in which we are all unique. That uniqueness is a strength and an advantage. But we also must reach beyond our differences to recognize the common humanity that is within us all.
I’m proud to be affiliated with the Dialogue Institute because together we can promote mutual understanding and cooperation among people of diverse faiths and cultures. That work has never been more meaningful, and more important, than it is right now.
Communities around the world are becoming more diverse by the day. These communities face a choice: to embrace that diversity or to resist it. I tell you this: Those who choose to embrace diversity will have a clear advantage over those who do not. They will be safer, more flexible, and have a broader array of ideas and influences to tap into. By leveraging those strengths and advantages, they will be more prosperous.
At UMKC, we are working hard to help this community become one that harvests the fruits of embracing diversity. And we welcome the Dialogue Institute as a partner in that vital endeavor.