This morning MPA students, teachers and staff had the pleasure to listen to a wonderful speech from Leda Kwon, a 10th grader student who talked to all of us about multiculturalism. This is what she said:
Before I officially commence my speech, I would like to ask all of you to take a moment and look around. Have you realized that even this is a small school with a population of mere 120 students, we are all from more than 20 different countries? In today’s fast growing society and constant development towards modernity, our society has become vast and diverse, with a share of its multi-ethnic citizens all around the globe. Today, I am here to deliver the crucial features of multiculturalism, with its wide spread influence to this generation.
Well, then what is this multiculturalism? Multiculturalism is the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation. Just like basic human rights, I believe in the same entitlement of justice and equality regardless of one’s racial background. Hence, I believe that one’s treatment as a human being ought to maintain its dignity no matter where they come from or how differently he or she may look and speak. It is also about mere toleration of group differences, which is said to fall short of treating members of minority groups as equal citizens.
Taken on a personal account, having been born in South Korea and growing up in Australia, I have witnessed both homogeneous and multicultural aspects of this society. South Korea is among the worlds most homogeneous nations and those who do not share those features are often rejected by the Korean society or face discrimination. Coming from this background, I was not accustomed to the diversity and multicultural perspectives of Australia. Hence, it was difficult for me to adjust at first in the new land of vast cultures.
I still vividly recall how nervous, even frightening it was for me when I first moved to Australia, with its unfamiliar culture and language. I must admit, it was one of the most nerve wracking things I had to face. Looking back, I realized what I was afraid of wasn’t the fact that everything was new and unfamiliar; it was because of the fear of rejection from this whole new environment, and like everyone else, I was desperate for acceptance as part of community.
As time moved on, I have realized at the end of the day it’s not about whether you are the same as others, or share the same values as everyone else. The truth is each one of us standing here right now, we are all different from one another, and we’ll never be the same. To me that’s what makes this world so unique and creative, by sharing diverse views and people; we stand out although we may not blend in, and it brings out the individuality in all of us. So why try to blend in when you’re born to stand out?
For me being different is part of my pride because that is what makes me, me, out of seven billion people on earth. I appreciate my difference and that also goes for everyone else’s difference too. It builds up the character in each of us.
I strongly advocate that what we need in this society at present is the diversity and the respect for the world’s multicultural aspects. Why? Not only will our society be exposed to other cultures and learn about them, I believe that it will lead to less racism as people have adapted to each other. We’ll see that people respect one another more as there will be fewer stereotypes. People will learn to look at each other for who they are instead of what or where they come from. Over time, people grow tolerance for each other and eventually, acceptance.
Whenever I refer to a multicultural society, I don’t only mean ethnicity, because for me, a “culture” is any sort of a larger social group. Therefore, different groups compose cultures, sexual orientation makes up cultures. Even political affiliation or geographic location can create separate cultures.
I believe that the very reason for multiculturalism was tolerance, liberty and freedom to live life as we saw fit. Though this may have not always come to fruition, the ideal is still there if a country, such as Australia, America, UK, Canada have strived to maintain a peaceful multicultural balance. There is a verse in Australian song saying, “we are one but we are many and from all the countries we have become.” What would that mean? To me, it means that although we may share different heritages, when we are united as one; there is no discrimination and the blend between those cultures will bond beyond the differences of each individuals background.
Initiating and spreading multiculturalism isn’t as hard as it may seem. It can start from simple gestures and daily routines, and most importantly from everyone of you here. So start today and forward, maybe that acceptance can create a harmony and someday I hope that harmony can spread around the world, bringing out the unity in diversity to this generation.