My path to working on diversity and inclusion started in a pretty unlikely place: a small community north of Concord.
Boscawen, where I was born and raised, is the definition of homogeneous. My neighbors, classmates and friends all shared similar identities: white, straight Christian. To be anything else was to be starkly “other.”
I stayed in-state for college at a small, private university, which exposed me to geographic diversity more than anything else. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later, when I began to engage more intentionally around LGBTQ and mass incarceration issues that I started to understand the complexities of peoples’ experience.
Now, I work in a capacity that highlights the importance of diversity. At Leadership New Hampshire, we are committed to developing leaders for New Hampshire who understand that we need everyone pulling together on behalf of our communities, our children, our workforce and our economy.
Since 1992, Leadership New Hampshire has worked to build a community of informed and engaged leaders through its 10-month program. Each year, about 40 leaders from varying backgrounds participate, learning about our state’s major systems including education, healthcare, environment, the economy, criminal justice, the media, arts and civic discourse. Participants learn from each other, incorporating the perspectives of their fellow associates.
The model has been very successful, but we knew New Hampshire was not the state it was when the program was established in 1992. We recognized that the program needed to reflect those cultural changes. If we hoped to fulfill our mission of creating a community of informed and engaged leaders, we had to invite more people to the table and examine the systemic disparities that create obstacles for some of our neighbors.
In doing so, we join many organizations and people, including Governor Sununu, working to make New Hampshire a more welcoming state for all.
We all need to share responsibility for that work. I have to demonstrate my commitment by weathering missteps and continuously educating myself. This work cannot be done by one person or one identity — it’s a collective effort that requires a vested interest by many. We all need to be having these conversations — even though they are difficult.
My own French-Canadian family found a welcoming place in New Hampshire by meeting others who helped them find places of worship, stable jobs and spaces that celebrated their culture. I am proud to be a part of the efforts to ensure that New Hampshire continues to diversify and that we find ways to ensure that all feel valued in the communities of our great state.