Mail Call: From Ellen Onderko
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07
I read with great interest the guest column about creating a humane model of acceptance at Texas A&M University, “A tradition of acceptance,” published April 10. My own experience in Silicon Valley, Calif., — where engineers from every country on Earth are rubbing shoulders — may give a wider view to the concept. In 15 years at two companies I became accustomed to meeting three colleagues at a cubicle intersection and realizing we had four different first languages, four different countries of origin, four different cultural and possibly economic backgrounds. At one luncheon, a class of mine had nine Vietnamese “boat people” telling their stories. Yes, we worked with each other. Yes, we ate with each other. Yes, we were friends and teammates at work. You would think the culture of acceptance could be rated high. But at night we all went home to the California of plurality — each to a different neighborhood reflecting our individual cultures. We didn’t invite each other over very often, partially because of the many long distance commuters. But mainly we found housing through existing family and friends and often near them. After work we didn’t need our co-workers to fill our lives. Acceptance was very high in the workplace where there was need. But outside of work, acceptance became the same old one-on-one story. I found acceptance with people from all over the world because I sought and enjoyed it. I worked to understand them and enjoy what they brought to the table. Other people did not pursue acceptance or extend it. But their choices were individual. People can be legislated into behaving and I know that Texas A&M University has all the rules and laws needed to prevent anyone from not being accepted. But acceptance at the individual level always comes from individuals, not from structures. If you want it, you must seek it. If you seek it, you will find like-minded people happy to give it. Oh, and I left Silicon Valley because there is one thing they don’t accept, even at work — age. My silver hair prevented me from working. It wasn’t acceptable.