Photo Credit, Jeff Baker
In this great big beautiful world of ours, I come from a place called Paragould, a small city in the northeastern corner of Arkansas right next to the Missouri border. We called it The Friendly City, and maybe that is still its nickname. Paragould is primarily a factory town sitting on a geographic anomaly called Crowley’s Ridge just east of “the hills” and just north of Mississippi Delta farmland. It experiences all four seasons each year, from the searing heat of summer to the crisp fall air to bitter winter weather to the liveliness of spring—sometimes all in the same week—and is home to mosquitoes large enough to pull a truck out of the mud should they ever decide to be helpful.
In Paragould, I have fond memories of loving family and friends, listening to Cardinal Baseball on the radio, cruising Kingshighway as a teenager, eating “baby burgers” at Dairy Queen, and high school basketball straight out of the Hoosiers movie set. In Paragould, I am not glad to remember a sordid past in race relations and am amazed that an almost unbelievable lack of racial diversity persists even to today. But all of this, the good and the not good, is part of my hometown. It’s where I come from.
This week is Diversity Week at Pepperdine Law, my California home for the past eight years, and it kicked off with the second annual Global Village Day, a day that celebrates the national, regional, and ethnic cultures found within the Pepperdine Law community. It has become my favorite day of the entire year. I suspect I enjoy it so much because of my insular experience growing up in Paragould. To wander around a single law school atrium and experience cultures including Armenia, China, East Africa, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Korea, Moldova, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scandinavia, Spain, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam—and regions of the United States including California, New England, and Texas—is just too cool to describe. But from a somewhat less selfish perspective, it is even more fun watching students (and faculty and staff) take such pride in sharing their culture with others. We are all from somewhere, and all of those somewheres are worth sharing.
So on Global Village Day I joined my friends Jeff, Margaret, Brittany, and Sarah for a pretty awesome table that shared the American South with the law school community. I wore my Arkansas Razorback necktie and poured gallons (four!) of my wife’s sweet tea to those who wandered by, and Jeff shared his amazing (ten-hour!) playlist of Southern music alongside his homemade biscuits and pimento cheese, and Margaret, Brittany, and Sarah shared scrumptious cheese grits, macaroni and cheese, and Butterfinger cake, respectively. We were a hit, but we were a hit in a room full of hits.
We are all from somewhere. I have no intention of forgetting that. But I sure love learning more about this great big beautiful world of ours.