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Since 1995, when I initiated a course that brought a diverse group of students to study at the University of Washington’s Rome Center, I have had the privilege of participating in various conversations about cultural differences that were magnified by being in an unfamiliar setting, where everyone was a foreigner, myself included.

Students who might not normally come together had the opportunity to reflect on their differences but always came to appreciate their similarities, such as a desire to be accepted and a longing for a bright future. The bonding that occurred as a result of shared experiences caused the participants to find color, language, culture and other distinguishing factors less consequential in the face of transformative insight.

It is now clear to me: It is easier to change a heart than a mind. The heart readily feels what the mind often seems incapable of understanding — our shared humanity. If we are to move away from the current polarization infecting everyone, we need a change of heart that comes from living and learning together. Hatred, child of fear, dies in the sharing of a meal.

James J. Clauss, Seattle