I have had some unique experiences: I have modeled for a multicultural fashion show, learned to samba in Rio de Janeiro, performed the US National Anthem at the Friends of India Diwali festival, and sang with drag queens during the Iowa City Pride Parade.
I am also a white female from a middle-class family in Iowa—and this has caused many people to ask why I advocate for diversity in my role as Miss Iowa 2014. Through my chosen platform of Do One Thing: Diversity Everyday, I engage people in conversations about diversity and inclusion. I have spoken at twenty schools in Iowa and with thousands of individuals from small towns to cities in Iowa.
I passionately believe in the importance of diversity. I attended a diverse high school in Des Moines, Iowa, and enjoyed being a member of multicultural organizations at the University of Iowa. I love surrounding myself with diverse company and seeking out new experiences and cultures. My parents encouraged me to try everything and to welcome all people regardless of race, color, or creed with an open heart and open mind. I took these values with me into my role as Miss Iowa.
When I first chose diversity as my platform topic for as Miss Iowa, I was unsure if I would be successful at expressing my message to the different communities that exist in Iowa. I worried that the topic of “diversity” would come across as an exclusive invitation to only certain demographic groups; I also wondered if I as a Caucasian would have the authority to speak about diversity.
That’s where “inclusion” enters the equation and solves all of these potential problems. Diversity is a target; inclusion is the act of making this target of diversity work in our schools, work places, and communities. Diversity is too often reduced to maintaining the existence of differences within groups, while inclusion works actively to incorporate these differences cohesively without eliminating them. At one time I thought that my identity as a white woman would be challenged within my role as a diversity advocate; instead I have found a new appreciation and understanding of my background and experiences through the inclusion I have experienced within diverse groups. Each time I am invited to participate in a multicultural event, inclusion and diversity are both at work. Promoting diversity without stressing inclusion can inhibit such growth for a community; inclusion both secures and furthers diversity. Emphasizing inclusion allows me to speak from my experiences about the breadth of diversity. I have consistently been fully embraced as an advocate for diversity and inclusion.
I was honored to emcee the Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 6th Annual Gala. The evening was a remarkable celebration of achievements and contributions by and for the Hispanic community. The Small Business Leader of the Year, Ying Sa of Community CPA and an Asian American, shared the most beautiful words during her acceptance speech: “When you grow, we grow. [My business] is a bridge between us.”
I have grown tremendously through my work with diversity and inclusion. On February 19th, 2015, I will be speaking in depth about my journey with diversity and inclusion at the Hotel Blackhawk as a part of the GQCHCC Multicultural Speaker Series and I hope to meet many of you there. It has been an honor to be welcomed by all of the diverse communities with which I have worked. To echo Ying Sa, you have grown and I am privileged to have grown alongside many of you.
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