Celebrating Our “Mosaic Society”

October 7, 2021 by Glenn Mangurian

“What are you?” asked Billy. I responded, “I’m Armenian.” “Oh, really, I’m Italian.”

“What are you?” was a common question among my friends growing up in Arlington. The question was
about our heritage but it was also about our identity. Many of us grew up in multi-generational two
family homes. My immigrant grandparents spoke Armenian to my parents. My parents spoke Armenian
when they didn’t want my sister and me to understand. We went to an Armenian church, ate Armenian
food, and frequented Armenian owned establishments. My grandmother thought the world consisted of
Armenians and “others”. Of course I knew I was American but my ethnic heritage and those of my
friends was a key dimension of our identities during our formative years. We grew up recognizing the
importance of mutual respect among our differences.

The Melting Pot Metaphor
We are all different and ethnic heritage is only one factor in our differences. Race, religion, gender,
sexual identity and political views are more prominent elements of different identities. While in college I
took a sociology course that introduced me to the concept of American society as a “melting pot”. A
melting pot is a metaphor for a society where many different types of people blend together (assimilate)
as one. Immigrants come to this country with the idea in their hearts and minds that they could find
opportunity as Americans no matter their origins. The melting pot metaphor never sat well with me. The
image the term invoked was mixing different people together to get mush where the distinctiveness of
the “ingredients” was destroyed to create a homogeneous set of peoples.

Mosaic Nation
We live in a pluralistic society in which the diversity in backgrounds and life experiences of its members
is a unique strength that be harnessed for the good of the whole. A more fitting metaphor would be to
think of our country as a mosaic. A mosaic is a picture or pattern that is comprised of many different
tiles – differences in sizes, shapes, colors and textures. Each tile is distinct and whole in its own right, but
joins other tiles to collectively become something very special. Of course our “mosaic nation” is made of
people of unique life experiences and identities. Our mosaic is not static but evolving as new people
arrive and others depart. The pieces can be rearranged in response to a changing world. What remains
the same across time is the interdependence of unique individuals to make something greater than its
parts.

Hingham Unity Council
In 2019 a group of Hingham residents came together to form the Hingham Unity Council (HUC). The
Council’s vision is to bridge differences in experience and perspective to build a culture that respects
and values the dignity and humanity of every community member. Engaging with differences can be
frustrating to some and empowering to others. The Unity Council seeks to We seek to bridge differences
in experience and perspective to build a culture that respects and values the dignity and humanity of
every community member. To that end HUC has developed a series of core tenets that guide their
activities. These include connecting in-person to foster dialogue to learn.

“People learn and grow when they know each other, even when they have different opinions or
viewpoints. In-person connections can remove barriers to deeper understanding, and create
greater opportunities for unity.”

A Day in the Life
The Council has recently launched a series of virtual conversations about differences in our community.
The next conversation scheduled for October 20 will focus on what life in Hingham is like for your
neighbors with disabilities. I will be a panelist and will be joined by two other residents who will share
personal stories of a “day in the life”, followed by a Q&A period. Please join us. You can register online
at https://hinghamunity.org/ I look forward to seeing you there.

 

Glenn Mangurian has been a resident of Hingham for 35 years. He is a retired business leader with more than four decades of experience driving innovation and results with his clients. Glenn remains active with his writing, speaking, family, and community.

In May 2001, Glenn suffered an injury to his spinal cord, resulting in the paralysis of his lower body. Drawing on his personal experience, he authored an article titled “Realizing What You’re Made Of,” which was published in March 2007 in the Harvard Business Review. In May 2017 he published his first book, Pushing the Edge of Thought, Possibility and Action – Questions and Insights from Everyday Life.

Glenn Mangurian can be reached at: [email protected]

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