Stay True to Our Motto: Don’t Be Scared to Speak Up


“Guided by each other, let us seek better paths.” As students, we recognize this principle as one of Hotchkiss’ defining strengths. Specifically, by using our diverse student body as a resource, we can reach higher understandings about the world than we would alone. However, in the current political atmosphere, we have begun to rely less on community as a collective resource and more on the voices of a vocal few. The two greatest issues are that people feel uncomfortable engaging in political conversations due to a lack of knowledge or fear that they will be judged because of their political affiliation.
Look at the flow of discussion in the school’s political clubs. At meetings, often one student, say a head or board member, introduces an event or topic. Then, a student presents their opinion on the matter. Perhaps another student disagrees and advocates for their own views. Then the discussion flows between these few students and them alone. Rarely do the rest of club attendees join in the conversation. Instead, they silently yield to the vocal minority.
Students may feel uncomfortable joining the conversation because they fear that they do not know enough about the topics being discussed. As a result, they defer to peers they believe have extensive knowledge on the issue. However, listening to each person’s opinion is key to better understanding the issues impacting our world. As such, I implore those who usually remain silent to ask for help and to confidently express their views. Likewise, I implore students who often speak to also seek out others’ opinions with an open mind.
For illustration, I would like to refer to an interaction between me and a political club board member during a discussion about Sudan’s recent regime upheaval. When this person first introduced the topic, I had no knowledge of the subject and could not contribute anything productive to the conversation. To be honest, I was afraid to speak and expose my lack of understanding. However, when I asked them to give me a little background on the subject, they were more than happy to oblige. I have no doubt that they would do the same for anyone else (and that the same goes for all of the other political club board members and heads). I hope that those students who often hesitate to participate will keep this moment in mind and, instead of staying silent on the sidelines, proactively seek the knowledge they require to determine and express their views.
We must also keep an open mind to the opinions of our peers. They come from all parts of the political spectrum and all levels of knowledge about a variety of issues. Hotchkiss provides us with an opportunity to interact with both sides and subsequently decide where we ourselves lie on that spectrum, yet I know many of my classmates feel uncomfortable sharing their political views, because they may not be shared by the majority of their classmates.
I came to Hotchkiss as a Democrat, but only because I emulated the opinions of my two older siblings. Truth be told, I had not talked meaningfully with any Republicans before. However, listening to the views of my right-leaning friends exposed me to different perspectives and provoked reflection; in fact, there are some issues today on which I remain divided. I believe this process to be vital in achieving both better understanding and genuine opinions, rather than blindly following the views of others (as I did with my siblings).
We must keep open minds and understand all sides of an argument before we decide where the truth lies. In an increasingly polarized America, listening to and understanding our opponents is necessary, not only to pass bipartisan legislation, but also to create a more unified country. The same goes for Hotchkiss.
It is not always easy to listen to what others believe, but it is imperative that we hear their offerings. Instead of arguing with and shouting at them, sit down and talk. Who knows, you may just change their mind or learn something yourself.

Contact Michael Zhang at
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