By MARLIESE FILLMORE
Different is not synonymous with better, and it is not synonymous with worse, said a BYU law professor. Differences enhance life and broaden perspectives.
“It is a much richer picture with all the many gifts and talents of everyone included,” Marguerite Driessen said at the Student Leadership Seminar symposium today.
The speech in the Varsity Theatre was part of Black History Month festivities.
Driessen began her speech with the tale of the blind men: Five blind men were trying to identify an elephant by touching only one part of its body. Each thought they had identified a different object — a snake, or tree trunk or broom — when they were all feeling different parts of the elephant.
When people focus on one viewpoint without listening to experiences and perspectives of others, they are limiting themselves, Driessen said
She said people often have perceptions that do not turn out to be true, so it is important to realize that there is not just one way to do something.
If she accepted the fact that her parents could not afford to send her to college, Driessen said she never would have attended law school and become who she is today.
Instead, she believed she could reach her goal and found a way to put herself through college.
“It wasn’t easy and I was not the smartest one in my high school class, but I managed to graduate third out of 868 students,” Driessen said.
Her high ranking earned her several scholarships that paid for much of Driessen’s education. She did not stop there, but maintained an A average in college which helped her get into law school, she said.
“This sometimes meant studying in the library while friends were out playing, or saying no when a guy calls on Friday night and I knew I had a test to take on Saturday morning. But I am in a better place today because of those sacrifices,” Driessen said.
When people told Driessen, as an 11-year-old child, that she could not become a lawyer because she was a girl or because she was black, she did not believe them.
“I pitied these closed-minded people, I didn’t hate them,” Driessen said. She has always known she was different, but she is grateful for that.
Driessen said it is aesthetically pleasing for everyone to be different, and it would be ugly if everyone had the same skin, hair and clothing.
Driessen recommended that all BYU students share their gifts and talents to build up their fellow man. “If you are a fast runner, you can teach me to run faster, and if I am a fast thinker, I can teach you to think faster.”
She said only together are we saved; we can not find truth alone. “There is a lot of truth on this planet, but to get the truth we have to get (all viewpoints).”
Driessen said “this does not have to be a race thing. It is a huge issue about limiting yourself, which is always dangerous.”