The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Ben Brody '22 RGLP Reflection: An ode to cultural growth

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If you had asked me to talk about my culture before I began RGLP, I would have given you a definition narrow enough to be succinct. I would have told you about growing up in New England. I might have talked about my Dad’s Jewish family. That would be it. That is how I would have defined my culture. I perceived it without nuance and without any aspects that I would consider “interesting.”

My biggest takeaway from RGLP is this: that whole paragraph embarrasses me. I am ashamed to admit that I hadn’t figured out how to find value in my own cultural experiences before this program. But, I am proud of how much that has changed.

RGLP has helped me discover tools to evaluate my own experiences as culturally valuable. I think about how much context I gathered for my own upbringing in a wealthy Boston suburb when playing hockey with teammates from working-class parts of the city. I think about how much of my personal character came from the interactions between my mother, her Catholic parents, my father, and his Jewish parents. I think about why I value education and communication and why I value friends over family. My independence, my desire for growth, and my willingness to listen all come from the experiences and cultural context of my past.

I also think that I’ve learned how much further I still have to go. I am becoming more adaptable, but I still sometimes have trouble adjusting to cultural shifts. I understand the importance of varying communication styles, but I sometimes struggle to interact with people whose communication styles differ from mine. I’m working on being more self-aware and having more intentionality in my interactions. I’m also grappling with the fact that my instincts for how best to approach this growth does not necessarily extend the appropriate amount of empathy for those whom I am interacting with.

I’m not perfect, and I’ll not pretend to be. I’m trying to improve, and RGLP has helped spark some inspiration for how to approach that process. So, even though being an RGLP participant neglected to give me unlimited cultural awareness, it did set me on a path to be slightly more culturally aware tomorrow than I am today.

Written by Ben Brody, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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