Issue I: What Motivates You?
The Survey Results
We sent out a survey in mid-November and received 58 responses. From those responses, we interviewed 11 people about what motivates them and the issues that matter to them most.
Bethany Faulkner, 22, takes the role of a moderator in hopes that the two sides will be able to understand each other.
“In meetings, family gatherings, between friends, politically, I’m just a moderator,” Bethany said. “Rather than put forth my opinion, I listen to the two sides and help them nudge towards a common ground, and that’s becoming more and more difficult. I’m really passionate about making sure that each side feels heard, but also pushing them to maybe see the other side as well.”
She said she especially feels the need to encourage dialogue when people strongly feel one way or another.
“For better or for worse, I think the most passionate people can be the ones that also have their blinders on,” she said. “So I really appreciate people that believe what they believe but are also willing to accept the logic of the other side.”
Bethany said if she begins to thinks someone is being inflammatory to the other person, she refuses to engage in the conversation further.
“I have a high justice meter. That’s what my mom tells me,” Bethany said. “I can stay really logical about a lot of things that a lot of people can’t stay logical about when discussing these policy issues. Like abortion, I can be very very very very logical about that. But when my brother says, after a bombing, that Islam is inherently a violent religion, or one of my friends from back home says the ’n’ word casually and ‘I bought this gun for them’, I get the fire of a thousand suns angry. That’s when my ability to talk reasonably and talk to them about why what they said was ridiculous, just ends.”
Bethany said when she confronts someone’s political views, she tells them she values them, so it feels less like an attack.
“I think it’s important to say that, to verbalize, ‘I respect you. I may not agree with your views but I respect you, and I think that you’re an intelligent person,” Bethany said.
She also sees the importance of action to support the cause she cares about most, the environment.
“I think the polar bears are important, but I think that’s a symptom of a greater sickness,” Bethany said. “I care about saving the animals but I also really really care about all of humanity. I think that when it comes to the environment, that’s what’s at stake. Everything else pales in comparison to me.”
Bethany explained she has concerns that a Trump administration will not see protecting the environment as a priority, so she decided to donate to the National Resources Defense Council.
“The environment is what scares me the most about the upcoming administration,” Bethany said. “The steps back that he is taking, when we need to be taking leaping bounds forward, he is taking steps back. That scares me, and I believe in putting my money where my mouth is if I can.”
She believes if we don’t focus our attention on the environment, the other issues won’t matter.
“The environment is the world we live in,” she said. “If we don’t have clean water, then obviously the economy is like ‘Who cares?’ The environment is the be all end all. It is the foundation on which we stand. If that is broken, then nothing else matters.”
Justine Orlovsky-Schnitzler, 21, always considered herself to be pro-choice, but two events in her life solidified her reasoning that abortion should be a choice individual women make.
One of Justine’s friends became pregnant in high school, and she watched her grapple with her decision.
“One of my best friends had a child,” Justine said. “It was a fascinating time, because it was someone who does identify strongly as pro-choice, and is still such a great activist and still one of my closest friends and the mother of my godson. So it’s really heartening, because you’re looking at someone making an individual choice, not necessarily the choice that I perhaps would have made in the same position.”
Justine said it made her more sympathetic to the decision women make to have an abortion or not.
“I do think that having the experience of my friend having agonizing struggles, and come to a decision on her own,” Justine said. “I think that just gave me a different view, because I can look at abortion rights and understand that no situation is black and white.”
Justine is a gender studies and history major at UNC-Chapel Hill, and one of her early courses, a personal essay she read called “The Way It Was” by Eleanor Cooney helped her see the importance of pro-choice.
“At that point, I identified as pro-choice, but I still had internalized a monologue that I think a lot of self-identified liberals do, which I think is, ‘Yes, it should be legal, but no I don’t like it and don’t want to think about it,’” she said. “And she wrote in such a way that I was actually like, ‘Oh, this is a person that could have been someone that I know, or could have been me.’”
Justine said she often gets frustrated when male senators discuss reproductive rights, especially when considering one in three women have an abortion in their lifetime.
“It’s very easy to make sweeping pronouncements on health care and morality, but it is always upsetting to see people, for example like the Senate, debating abortion and they’re all men,” she said. “It’s like, ‘really? I don’t know if this has ever been an issue that’s come up for you.’ Even if you haven’t had one, you know someone. And even if you don’t think you know someone, you do.”
After the election, Justine began to question if her work with the NARAL and the Carolina Abortion Fund is worth it when legislation abortion activists have worked toward could be reversed.
“The discouragement of feeling like you’re not moving forward politically,” she said. “Partly it’s the idea that we’ve been fighting this battle for so long. It’s 2017, how is this still happening? Coupled with the idea that you put in all of this effort and all of this work and people like Donald Trump are still elected.”
She said her 15-year-old sister is the reason she keeps fighting so she can live in a better world.
“I have a younger sister, and I do feel as though a live for her, not as much for myself but for her.,” Justine said. “Because I want it to be a place that she wants to live in. There’s a little bit a worry coupled with that as well. It’s certainly a little bit discouraging with our current political climate, each and every day to have to face that. But I feel like I have the ability to affect positive change, so if I’m able to, as much as I’m able to, that’s why.”
In college, Chris Becker, 23, surrounded himself with like-minded liberals. When he entered his first job outside of college, he was met with co-workers who were conservative. And he began to question whether his liberal ideals were right.
“In college, it’s that passion, you feel very zealous about these things you care about — at least I did and as a result, I thought I was getting a diversity of thought in these groups,” Chris said “It’s obvious now being around these people who are very conservative, both socially and financially. Was I wrong the whole time?”
Nowadays he is focused on his basic principles — people should have basic rights, and that it doesn’t need to be partisan, and if a person has a strong opinion about a certain issue, they should be able to defend it.
“I feel strongly about basic principles as far as if someone’s rational violates the basic principles I care about I’m not going to support the rational,” Chris said. “But I think with gun policy, you can have people on the left or right giving an argument for it or both could give an argument against it, and I think it doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. The others, like basic rights for people regardless of who they are, that’s one of those fundamental principles.”
“If it’s critical, if it doesn’t understand it’s own limitations, and its own cause — here’s why I feel this way and it’s because of my background or my family and because of the news sources I read,” Chris said. “If people can’t acknowledge that, that frustrates me. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but it’s like, think a little harder.”
He has started to be more self-critical of his own thinking, and not jump on the left-wing bandwagon.
“Personally I’ve become less of a blanketed political perspective in terms of anything the left says is the position I hold,” Chris said. “It’s more of trying to be critical of specific positions.”
Chris is critical on how he thinks the economy should be set up and if he should forfeit his personal wealth to better the lives of others.
“I think I want to be wealthy, so I can do whatever I want,” Chris said. “I don’t know if that’s the right thing to be doing. I know I want to live freely in terms of being not obstructed by debt. And I know I would like everyone to live freely. I don’t know if that’s possible. It should be. I want to live freely. Should I sacrifice portions of my freedom that I think I should have because in doing so I help other people more than it would help me? I don’t know.”
He does hope that others will have these critical conversations about the economy, specifically with automation, which he expects will eliminate an entire sector of jobs in the near future.
“I was extremely disappointed that neither candidate discussed automation, and its effects on the current, but the especially the future economy,” he said. “They talked a lot about globalization and these other broad terms, but I think people don’t address it, because it is the hardest problem we are going to face in the next 10 years. How do you tell a whole sector that they don’t have job anymore?”
Through reading and listening to conversations in his community and trying to answer these questions, Chris said he is gaining more perspectives and empathy but also forming his own opinions as well.
“There are things people can say where I feel like, I’m never going to agree with you on that thing that you said,” Chris said. “But I don’t think — I hope there’s not things people can say that will make me respond by saying I don’t want you in my life anymore. Increasingly, I think that list is getting longer of things that you can say where I’m just like ‘you’re an idiot,’ but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I’m just getting more thoughtful about right or wrong.”
Dianna: Treatment of Women
Dianna Wynn, 53, was instilled with feminist ideals from a young age when her mother gave her clips from the feminist magazine Ms.
“When I think about life changing events, I really think back to those early years and my mother exposing me to the notion, even though she wasn’t able to fully live it, that there was the whole concept of life for women beyond what I necessarily saw around me,” Dianna said.
Dianna has continued to support women’s rights by attending her first March of Washington in the 1980s, protesting during Moral Monday about reproductive rights that led to her arrest, taking her niece to her first protest march and planning to attend the Women’s March on Washington. Dianna said she can see the progress for women’s rights, but she knows women have a long fight ahead of them.
“When I was a little girl, I thought those fights were going to be done,” Dianna said “But the reality is that we have far more protections in place than we have ever had before. We have more educational opportunities, we have more professional opportunities. We have more choices about how we live our personal lives and those choices are acceptable.”
Dianna said a Donald Trump win was very emotional for a lot of women, including herself.
“I have voted ever since I have been old enough to vote,” Dianna said. “My candidates win sometimes, and they lose a lot of times. And the next day it’s, ‘Well, OK, we move on.’ That’s the way politics works, I don’t get terribly emotional about it. This was different because of the nature of the rhetoric in the campaign, it was very anti-woman, bigoted on every level. You start to feel powerless. It is so big and so you feel so small. What can you possibly do? That’s demotivating.”
Dianna got out of her rut by coming up with a list of goals to accomplish and posted it on her social media.
“All of a sudden I felt empowered, because I had a plan, I had a way forward,” Dianna said. “I’ll be able to be collectively a part of action. A little piece of something much bigger, to hopefully make a difference of at least speaking out.”
Women having control of their reproductive choices is what Dianna will continue to fight for.
“When I hear about elected officials who want to restrict access to birth control, restrict access to accurate information regarding sex education in the schools, those are really important things for women in terms of being able to understand their bodies and understand their choices,” Dianna said. “Women terminate pregnancies for a variety of reasons that we should not be second guessing. I think it’s a personal choice. Women need to make those decisions between their doctors and in accordance with their personal beliefs. That’s so fundamental in terms of women’s ability to have full control over their life and the trajectory of their life. It does make me angry when I see, particularly male legislators speaking on this issue in very oppressive ways.”
She said women have learned to live with being treated in this way.
“We’re so accustomed to how we’re spoken to and how we’re treated, how we may have to fight harder for professional credibility so we can be taken seriously and have the same opportunities,” Dianna said. “Beyond that, I see the underlying principles are the same, whether it’s feminism, racism or homophobia. Those kinds of things make me both angry and very sad. When I see people not be accorded their full rights a human being, that is what fires me up. I think we all have to care about that.”
Women are a part of other social and economical groups, which Dianna believes is a reason feminist issues are pushed to the back or not fought for as often as they should be. And she is willing to fight whatever battles of injustice society is faced with.
“I feel that women are at the forefront of the issues regarding so many other areas, that we’d only leave each other behind,” Dianna said. “I think that if you had asked that to a black woman with a black son, how could she possibly say, ‘I would choose issues related to feminism.’ Her issues are more complex. How does she deal with issues of racial justice, particularly when we look at how black women are treated. The answer is, I think I’d go down with the ship rather than save my ship and my fellow women. I think I’d go down with the ship fighting.”
Christin Hardy, 28, is a salsa dance. She grew up in the small town of Seven Springs, North Carolina, and considers herself a moderate.
Christin started dancing when she was four, which has shaped her day-to-day and is what makes her happiest.
“It’s hard to describe when something feels good, but it is an activity that makes me feel really good,” Christin said. “It’s much more of an emotional response. There’s really not words to aptly describe, but there is definitely something that happens when I dance.”
She is motivated by her dance community, but said the past year has given her a feeling of defeat and doom with the political climate of the country.
“For the past year, I have avoided every political thing that was on Facebook, because it was so much noise,” Christin said. “People were so militant about their opinions. There is no space for me here to say what I really think.”
Being a moderate, Christin said with the election, there was an expectation to be on one side or the other.
“Everyone has just been very very pushy about you saying what you believe in, and being completely 100 percent one way or the other,” Christin said. “There has not been any room for middle ground where I think most people fall honestly.”
She, though, said she had a learning curve when she went to college of understanding that there were various points of views.
“There are very few things that are 100 percent in our life, and that is you pay taxes and you die,” she said. “Other than that everything else has another side. Every single thing, every single time for some reason it took me a while to realize that. I think when I finally realized that through coming to college ‘Oh all of these things growing up, there’s other worlds out there.’”
Having this life-changing realization has made her want to pay it forward and talk to her parents about why some are fearful of a Trump presidency.
“For the life of them, [my parents] could not understand why people felt scared or why people would feel threatened with the results of the election,” she said. “I was like ‘Guys, they are as blind to your issues as you are to their’s.’ If you are a Latino here, even if you are undocumented, even if you are a citizen, you look Mexican, you will be profiled for that. That’s a real fear. If you are a black male with a hoodie on walking at night unarmed, chances are you are more likely to be shot than somebody else. Those are fears and the sentiment that is behind a Trump administration. They’re real.”
She is hopeful more of these conversations will happen, and people will begin to feel empathetic toward others, including the issue that matters to her the most — inheritance tax.
“I wish there was more coverage on issues that affect people in the rural community, so that when you do get ‘Why you voted or did whatever you did you?’ you don’t have to first put on your teacher hat and educate about the issues they don’t know,” Christin said. “Everyone is already prepped with this knowledge, and you can start out with a conversation.”
Christin said she believes in the next four years, people will begin to explain why they think, act and vote the way they do.
“I think the next four years will actually instead of people hardening more and more into what they already believe, people will actually dissolve barriers and start to talk,” she said. “I feel like that’s where it is going. If we don’t do that, what are we going to do? Have a civil war 2.0? We’ve got to talk to each other. I’m optimistic that is what will end up happening versus more polarization.”
Colin: Foreign Policy
World peace is attainable and something that we should strive for, according to Colin Reed.
“It sounds cheesy, but I do think that world peace is achievable,” Colin said. “I don’t think that we’ll achieve in my lifetime, but I think that the step we could accomplish is greater integration with other cultures and other nation-states. I think most of the problems that people face in the day to day are similar problems to what someone is encountering across the globe. If you actually bond over challenges, rather than commonalities, you’ll get people to work together a lot better.”
Colin, 25, grew up in the ’90s when globalization was a popular trend, but as he got older, events began to disregard that.
“When I was growing up, there were a bunch of little events,” Colin said. “It was the ’90s. It was globalization. As I started to get older, there were a bunch of events that were counter to that trend, so terrorism, rising nationalism. A lot of big events that are causing people to lose hope. So the thing that I saw inevitable as a kid, became less and less inevitable as I got older.”
He said terrorist attacks, especially Sept. 11 and the Boston Marathon bombing, were a main reason he began to learn more about international relations and foreign policy. He decided to enter the field of international security.
“At that time, attacks like that, small level attack were happening all the time, and it seemed like it was going to become a viral thing, something that we couldn’t really address,” Colin said. “To me, that seemed like the defining issue of our time.”
He said the rise of terrorism is a sign that the global population does not feel like we are heading in a positive direction — one that resembles a pre-World War I era.
“It’s very clear to me now that a lot of people have been left behind by globalization,” Colin said. “I think that terrorism was the start of the signaling of this trend and we didn’t understand what it meant. Now we’re seeing that it’s not just marginalized populations, it’s pretty much everybody is unhappy with how this is going. It’s been a very uncontrolled process with globalization, so really what I want to do now is go back and understand better how you move forward from here.”
Colin sees the role of the U.S. as the powerful figure in the Hegemonic War theory, an idea that a single nation-state sets precedent for others, but after challenges to that state, eventually it falls.
“The United States in the hegemonic power,” Colin said. “It’s being challenged by Russia, China and Iran to a lesser extent. The defining issue is, how do you undermine those challengers without causing a nuclear war?”
Colin said he believed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton understood that the Hegemonic War theory could become a reality.
“That’s the issue that really got me going during the campaign because Hillary’s Secretary of State career, and then to a lesser extent when she was the first lady, those experiences inculcated her with the same idea,” he said. “That’s why I was excited about her candidacy when many people weren’t, was that I saw a lot of the same views about the same international system in her.”
Colin calls himself an international realist and has set his life mission to help bond countries instead of divide them further apart.
“A lot of my career is focused towards developing better understandings of what other nation-states and peoples are doing,” Colin said. “I really honestly think that if every nation-state was omniscient and knew what everyone else was up to and where they stood on things, I think you would have a much more secure world. There wouldn’t be much use for war. So in the small way that I can contribute to a better understanding of the rest of the world, I think it really does matter.”
Ilina: Treatment of Women
Ilina Ewen, 48, serves on the board of Safe Child and the Cecilia Rawlins Fund. She started Backpack Buddies at her son’s elementary school. She has a blog called “Dirt & Noise.” She is a state leader for the Shot at Life organization, which is a section of the U.N. Foundation, and is the director of marketing at HQ Raleigh.
“It’s a lot, but it never feels like enough,” Ilina said.
Ilina is also a mother of two sons who are 11 years old and 13 years old.
“I jokingly say I don’t want to raise sons to grow up to be assholes, but I mean that,” Ilina said. “My most important thing to me is to raise sons to go off and do good things.”
Ilina saw an example of one of her son’s making a difference after her family visited her home country of India recently.
“One of the things we did there was visit an all-girls school that was set up in a village outside where I was born, and it was to prevent girls from being trafficked. To see that school with my sons — they’re the same age — these girls are married off at 10,” Ilina said. “My younger son for his birthday wanted to raise money instead of get presents to help fund a girl for a year, and he did it. That kind of thing is so powerful. I was really happy to help be a part of that.”
Ilina has began to see what issues affect her sons — injustice and gun violence. She said the election has started a conversation and has shown they are making steps toward being engaged citizens. She, though, does have some concerns that her kids will be bystanders.
“I tell them whether it’s bullying or consent issues or anything that you have to speak up,” Ilina said. “I know it’s hard. I know being a teenager is hard. Middle school is hard. I get that you want to fit in, and it’s weird to be the kid who is the snitch, but I keep trying to say you’re not being a snitch. This is a safety issue. You’re saving someone, so that’s one of my biggest fears is that they won’t step in and grow up to be advocates to do something.”
Ilina also points out the difference of how men and women are treated in society, using the example of the middle school dress codes.
“It is not her job to please you,” Ilina said. “It is not her job to appropriate for you. It’s your job to know how to focus. It’s your job to know how to handle yourself, because something’s always going to be distracting, and that’s your problem. It’s not her problem.”
Ilina said she realized the double standard women have when she was living with her dad and her brother growing up. She said the way she is treated compared to men has since stood out to her, especially when she was sexually harassed at work and was making less money than her male counterparts.
“I see it now as an adult that how I’ve been treated in the workplace has been abysmal in some situations,” Ilina said. “I mean full out harassment where I had someone who was much higher up than me in my company send me a bikini, because we had a conference coming up in Palm Springs, and said ‘I hope to see you in this pool side.’ Can you imagine this? This is atrocious. This is not OK.”
She said her concerns don’t just focus on the political climate of the U.S. but around the world.
“You think about what is happening in France,” Ilina said. “The leader running there now is their Donald Trump. The same thing with Brexit in England. You see the plague of refugees all over the country, like no country wants them. We look at what’s happening in Syria, and we pay more attention to Donald Trump’s tweets than we do with these children, so I think that the tone of people focusing inward instead of outward is definitely a global issue right now. It’s more me versus we all over the world.”
She said she feels optimistic that we can do something to encourage change, because her sons have been doing it from a young age.
What’s really powerful is to have some anecdotes in my back pocket to show them that your agency matters,” Ilina said. “My kids are 11 and 13, and they’ve been writing letters to their senators since they were 6 and 8, and they get letters back. So if a kid can do, you can do this too.”
John Bianchi, 27, knows the power of making a good choice. After working in New York City for more than two years, he made the decision to move his life and marketing career to Raleigh.
“I got to point in my career when I was in New York City where I was enjoying my career, and I ended up meeting my girlfriend,” he said. “I began to think about things in a broader perspective. The motivation came to me as it was a necessity for change.”
As an aspiring marketing consultant, he’s built his career on identifying these areas for change.
“A lot of times business people or consultants, or individuals like myself, can look only to the profit side of business,” John said. “But really, that’s a secondary to delivering value to your client. Service is about creating value, wherever you’re doing that.”
Providing these services has allowed John to have a direct impact on the economy, the issue that is most important to him.
“I think why it’s so important is that it’s going to affect my life, it’s going to affect my choices, where restaurants open up,” John said. “I always tell my friends that I’m a spender. And I don’t mean that in a wasteful sense, but I spend in the economy. If you think about where the money is allocated and what options and choices are available to you, it makes a difference in the long run. It’s not just ‘Hey, I want lower taxes’, it’s a lot of people that this economy affects.”
According to John, this spending is hindered by the “oppressive” tax system. He said the government should provide more resources for the amount he is taxed.
“When you look at what you’re being taxed, you might be taxed at up to 50, 55 percent of your total income that you make,” John said. “And I don’t have free healthcare, my student loans are still there and I wasn’t guaranteed a job after college, and I think that’s ridiculous.”
John said high taxes put a large burden on graduates with student loan debt.
“If you think about spending 50 percent of our federal budget on the military, and our students are under crushing student debt, both private and federal, then you’re not really telling me that you’re investing in our future, you’re just building guns, ship and tanks,” he said. “Our investment is people, and it’s going to be the future.”
Living in Raleigh has also allowed John to build a community of like-minded professionals as a chairman of the America’s Future Foundation.
“My goal and my focus with this organization is to create a circular mentorship program for people who are in their post graduate years and link them with individuals who are 20, 30 years in business who they can receive mentorship from, they can receive career advice, they can receive placement, and they can also be exposed to varying ideals,” he said.
Another goal John has for AFF is facilitate discussion among members with different viewpoints.
“It is going to lean more conservative, it’s going to be more liberty-motivated, but we’re not partisan in taking a stand on specific issues,” he said. “It’s more motivated by creating that organization. With our last meet up, we had people who knew nothing about the organization. I had an excellent conversation with two gentlemen who were very much opposed to a lot of conservative things. I think that’s great. That’s what I want, that’s what I’m trying to create.”
John said these discussions are important outside of the professional world as well, and he hopes he will see people engage in conversations to become more open to others.
“I think the biggest thing that discourages me is the lack of communication among people of different racial backgrounds, gender, sexual orientation,” he said. “There is very little discussion happening in any of these areas, and there’s becoming more of a close mindedness. I don’t know if that’s always been the tradition in the United States of America, but I feel like in my lifetime, it’s become the tradition.”
Matt: Treatment of Women
When Matt Shipman, 39, moved to Raleigh, he didn’t have a lot of money, resources or time, but he wanted to give back to the community.
Up one night with his newborn daughter, he came up with an idea called the First Step Project. He found others like him who could only give a can of soup or a roll of toilet paper once a month, and then found an organization to help — InterAct, a nonprofit that provides support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“I’ve been aware of shelters for women and children who were survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault my entire life, because my mom was involved with one, and I volunteered at [a] shelter as a kid,” he said.
The choice of InterAct is a response to the issue that matters to him most — the treatment of women.
“I have three daughters, and right now, they are little kids, but they’re not going to be little kids forever,” Matt said. “And I want the world to be as safe and welcoming as it possibly can be for them, because right now, I can protect them, but I can’t protect them for much longer. Also, I was raised by a single mom, like I know how messed up the world can be particularly to women, and it’s not fair, and it’s really frustrating and disheartening, and it’s something that my mom and my wife, and eventually my daughters will have to deal with.”
He said the long list of injustices toward women is infuriating.
“Women make less money for doing the same jobs,” Matt said. “That’s bullshit. Nobody has ever commented to me about my wardrobe for being inappropriate, and that happens to women all the time.”
“Nobody has ever told me that my wardrobe is too provocative or too prudish. That happens to women all the time. That’s bullshit too. Men are physically and sexually assaulted, but not remotely at the same rate that we see women physically or sexually assaulted. That’s absurd.”
Matt explained in order to counteract the way women are treated, they change various things of their everyday life to feel safe, and if he could make an impact on women’s safety, he believes it could have a domino effect to improving their lives.
“You might not apply for a job or travel somewhere,” he said. “People make decisions about their day to day life. About everything from going to the grocery store to what sort of job they’re going to have based on whether they are going to be safe doing it, so if you could affect safety, security then that I think would go a long way toward affecting many other aspects of women’s lives.”
Matt admitted he can tell the vast difference between the treatment of women and men by something as simple as walking alone in the dark.
“I’m parked six blocks away,” he said. “By the time I walk home or walk back to my car, it will be very dark, and I’ll be walking by myself, and I’m not nervous at all. But if my wife were to be making the same walk, I would be nervous for her. That’s the world we live in, and it’s not OK.”
Nicholas Sailer, 25, has a life goal to discover the absolute truth.
“I do think that truth exists,” Nicholas Sailer. “I think there is an absolute truth. No matter what people believe about it. No matter if all society didn’t believe it, it would still be true. I don’t think our perceptions affect truth.”
Nicholas tries to understand how people he’s surrounded by came to their own truth.
“I try to understand why they have those views, and I think a huge part of that is understanding their backstory, how they grew up, what were their parents like,” Nicholas said. “Just those few things are incredibly influential in terms of how they think about the world.”
Having these thought-provoking questions leads him to understand how people live the way they do, vote the way they do and defend what they do. It helped him be the bridge between the left and right after the election.
“I’m in a very unique position where I have friends on both sides,” Nicholas said. “I have friends that are extremely liberal, and they don’t know anyone that voted for Trump. And I have friends that definitely voted for Trump, and I have extended family members who voted for Trump, so I feel like having the perspective is very very valuable, and it has allowed me to have hard conversations about these things.”
He said people who don’t want to hear another side are hard to engage with, so he tries to go into every conversation with an open mind.
“It’s really hard to have a conversation with someone who will not even consider the possibility that I might be right, because I always try to,” Nicholas said. “I think there are a couple of fundamental rules of having a good conversation with someone who has different views, and one of them is going in the conversation considering the fact you might be wrong. I always try to go in these conversations ‘OK I might be wrong. I’m not God. I don’t know everything,’”
Talking to people and understanding why they think the way they do may be a way to prevent extremism.
“There’s not really an issue in particular I can think of that someone who has a specific lifestyle, specific background or religion, or, you know, voting for a political party, that I couldn’t sit down with them and have a conversation,” Nicholas said. “And actually if they were really way outside my own views, like a Marxist or a Nazi sat down, I would be super fascinated, like ‘Why are you a Nazi?’ I would be fascinated to talk to someone who is a Nazi or a Klansman. It would be very scary, but also understanding why they took those views would help me understand how we can stop it. And that’s a huge part of political discussions. Let’s understand why and then we can understand how to fix it.”
Although he understands there is a possibility someone’s viewpoint may conflict with his and may change his truth, he knows some of his principles will remain constant in his life.
“Asking these questions at certain points has shaken some fundamental things that I believe, but at the core there are just some fundamental truths have been discovered by society, or most people in society, that you can’t really ignore,” Nicholas said. “For me, talking to a Klansman, he’s wrong, but I want to find out why he thinks he’s right."
“It’s a fundamental belief that we are all equal,” Nicholas said. “That is at the core. That can’t really be shaken.”
Nicholas said he struggled to choose a specific issue that matters to him most due to this belief that we all should be equal.
“For me to just pick this is more important than that, in each of those different sections there were ones that involved people,” Nicholas said. “There were some that weren’t directed toward people, but all of them directly or indirectly touch on how people are being used or misused or abused or whatever. For me, it was basically like all these are different purposes for how people are thinking about purpose, and I couldn’t really choose between ‘Oh the people in this arena are more important than people in this arena.’”
Tim: Treatment of Ethnic, Racial and Minority Groups
Tim Rosenberg, 25, has made something out of nothing several times in his life.
He grew up in High Point, North Carolina with his Asian mother and Jewish father who struggled financially.
“I came from a low-income family and growing up my family didn’t have a lot of opportunities but I saw education as a way out — as a tool of empowerment for those who maybe don’t have economic power or minorities who have maybe faced institutional discrimination and racism,” Tim said.
With various resources, Tim graduated from NC State with a degree in graphic design.
Tim said one of his life experiences challenged him to make the best of a unexpected situation, which shaped whom he is today.
“I had a transformative experience a couple years back where I had a job out in Los Angeles, and everything was set, and it fell through due to unforeseen circumstances while I was at the airport on the way there,” Tim said. “And I faced a lot of challenges. How do you land in a place with nothing and make something?”
Tim ran into a similar scenario when he was overseas and faced severe mental and health issues.
“I was thinking wow this is the bottom of the bottom,” Tim said. “There is nothing. I felt like I couldn’t grow. I felt stagnant. I felt trapped, but gradually over time I knew there was more that I was capable of and just step-by-step, different life milestones, moving back to Raleigh, getting a job and then building my own business. It was basic to see the difference in how far I’ve come from rock bottom to soaring into new territory. Knowing where I came from, and what I’ve gotten myself out of from a psychological, mental health point of view inspires me that I can keep going.”
With this inspiration, Tim has build a life through working at Quillor, a design agency and being a community organizer and designer for The Nest in downtown Raleigh. Tim said he has used his life as an example for others who are struggling.
“When I share my life experiences where I’ve had to make something out of nothing, that has been inspiring to people,” he said. “People have come back saying ‘Wow, the things that you’ve been through inspires me to go out and do something of my own.’”
Seeing the injustices others go through has been an demotivating factor for Tim.
“What makes me less motivated is seeing injustice or a sense of disempowerment when I see things going on in the political world today,” Tim said. “Turn on the news, it’s all bad news. People getting killed or shot. A lot of corruption. A lot of mismanagement, and to me in terms of that outside world that national, global stage, it is demotivating to see how much unfortunate circumstances there are around me out there.”
Tim said he believes the mistreatment toward one group is a mistreatment to every group.
“I feel like an injustice to a small minority group is an injustice to a whole,” Tim said. “For example, recently there has been talk of gerrymandering in North Carolina and how different minority groups have less political power. Issues that affect minority groups are both social and economical are related to issues of reproductive rights, to health. It does run a pretty wide gamut. I feel like if we could build a community where everyone is on the same level playing field, then that improves the social issues across the board.”
Tim said if we aren’t able to achieve this equality, then we aren’t living up to the founding principles of the U.S.
“We prided ourselves of being this land of opportunities and I hope that we would live to that standard.”