Each year I host a Youth Summit and Diversity Dialogue. This year it was held at Southern Methodist University with high school students from throughout the Dallas area in attendance. Now in its eighth year, the Summit is designed to bring about greater understanding, and better working relationships between young people of different faiths, ethnicities and countries of origin. It is extremely important that as a society we celebrate diversity. In our city and in our country we have young people from all over the world who have something of value to contribute as we create a culture of peace, harmony and brotherhood.
Nearly 75 students participated in this year’s Summit. They heard from various speakers regarding cultural norms and customs in different parts of the world, and they exchanged ideas and concerns with one another in small group sessions. They understand that they can share cultural and ethnic differences to make a better world for all people. Diversity is of extreme importance in our society. In the future, our country will be even more diverse. Value must be placed on the experiences of all people in a progressive society.
The young people of today do not comprehend why America once had separate water fountains for people of different colors. They reject that concept. They also do not understand why there was a time when some people had to sit in the rear of public buses, or in the balconies of movie theaters. They refuse to hold on to prejudices that prevented America from becoming a great society sooner than it did.
Speakers at the Summit urged the participants to work towards creating a world in which the cultures and experiences of all people are given equal footing. Farrukh Valliani, the president of The Aga Khan Council of the Central United States, addressed the students, telling them that cultural diversity was crucial in today’s world. The Aga Khan Council helped to sponsor this year’s event.
Dr. Lori White, the Vice President for Student Affairs at SMU, spoke to the students, telling them that they were the future leaders of the world. “It is important that people who are different from one another have respect for each other,” she said. “We need all of your talents.”
Our world is dramatically different from what it was 20 years ago. Social norms and customs have changed. The young people who participated in the Summit will ensure that progress that has been made in the past two decades will continue. They understand that the future belongs to all of us.