My name is Chase Guida, and I am allergic to peanuts. I bet you’re thinking “Aww man, poor guy’s never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before.”
And it’s true, I haven’t. But I don’t think your first thought would be all the advantages that come with a peanut allergy. I could just save your life because I had to learn how to give first aid to anaphylaxis, which comes with an allergic reaction. Now food allergies aren’t that uncommon, they affect about eight percent of young people in the US, but that’s only one distinction. Pick any two people in this room and you will find between them uncountable differences.
I want to talk to you today about diversity. All diversity, whether it be racial diversity, gender diversity, socio-economic diversity, political diversity, you name it. Diversity can make any group more adaptable and makes interpersonal connections more meaningful and mutually beneficial. Studies show that corporate leadership groups with greater racial and gender diversity are significantly more likely to win higher-than-average financial returns. This occurs because a diverse group of people will have different talents and experiences, which leads to more creative and capable solutions.
To make this idea really clear, let me ask: who likes the Guardians of the Galaxy? Their extraordinary feats are owed to the balance of skills on various team members. Groot has great strength; Rocket has mechanical know-how; Gamora has insider knowledge of the enemy; and Star Lord has the immense power of music from the 60s and 70s. All their different traits combine to form a diverse team which is much more capable than any of them are alone.
That one friendship taught us so much about each other, and we got to be really close.
I’ve seen the applications of this principle firsthand on the Scholar’s Bowl team. For those of you who don’t know, in scholar’s bowl, two teams of four people compete to buzz in and answer a question correctly before the other team can. The questions cover a wide range of topics, including literature, science, history, current events, and pop culture. Nobody comprehends all of those topics deeply, so we try to specialize and find a diverse group of team members. Even just having one person who takes
Spanish, one who takes French, and one who takes Latin can make a big difference to the team’s success.
Last year, we had a pretty solid team with various strengths, and we performed well. I really bonded that year with one of my teammates, Shaheer Seljuki. On the team, while my knowledge was more science- and music-based, Shaheer knew a lot about Middle Eastern history and culture as well as anthropology. We talked about our differences. Shaheer told me all about growing up in a Middle Eastern family, and I
taught him about what it’s like to live in a somewhat rural setting, what it’s like to go hunting and raise animals. One of the few traits we shared was a strong mutual interest in medieval history. That one friendship taught us so much about each other, and we got to be really close.
Don’t hide your differences, be kind, and be open-minded to new ideas.
By traditional metrics, our school setting does not seem to be the most diverse. We come from majority white, middle/upper class households. Our outlooks are similar. When Johnny T from FCD asked us a few weeks ago if any of us were planning to not go to college, everyone was silent. But every one of us is a unique human being with experiences no one else has had.
So this is my challenge to you: this week, find someone who you don’t already know and find out what makes the two of you different. Maybe they play a sport, and you don’t, or maybe they somehow haven’t seen Star Wars? Learn about them. Get to know them. Don’t hide your differences, be kind, and be open-minded to new ideas.