Our Second Annual Celebration of Cultural Diversity!

On Wednesday, October 22nd, Orion Associates, Meridian Services, and Zenith Services hosted a Celebration of Cultural Diversity at the Maple Grove Community Center, in Maple Grove. The event was intended to provide an opportunity for those involved with our organization to learn more about each other and the cultures from which we all come, and to celebrate our diversity!

The event included the opportunity to sample foods from a number of different ethnic groups, to hear and see some entertainment from the various cultures represented in our workforce, and to hear Cecil Ramnaraine, a noted speaker, talking about diversity in the workplace from the perspective of global peace and non-violence.

The Celebration was well attended by employees, consumers, families, friends, and some representatives from the counties and state.

The following is Stephen Hage’s opening remarks for the Celebration of Cultural Diversity:

A Celebration of Cultural Diversity!

I would like to begin by offering a warm welcome to everyone! My name is Stephen Hage. I’m the Chief Administrative Officer for Meridian Services, Zenith Services, and Orion Associates, and on behalf of our organization, I’d like to say how very pleased we are that you were all able to join us this evening for this celebration of cultural diversity.

I wanted to take a few minutes to share with you something of my own experience of cultural diversity.

I grew up in Saint Cloud and attended college in Northfield … just a very few years ago … in the 1970s. And I can say that during the ‘70s, Saint Cloud and Northfield were not all that culturally diverse. Yes, as someone of Norwegian descent, I was in the minority among the Germans in Saint Cloud, and while attending college at Saint Olaf, as a Norwegian, I was in the majority as compared to the Swedes who, it was rumored, were also students there. But, as surprising as it might seem to some, those were not particularly rich experiences of cultural diversity.

It was in my senior year of college that I did have the opportunity to experience real cultural diversity. I participated in a college study program in Jerusalem. As my professor explained it, Jerusalem was chosen as the site of the study program because it was the one place in the world where you could see the world.

I remember my first experiences of walking through the streets of Jerusalem, being thrilled by what I saw. There were Palestinians in traditional Arab robes, Orthodox Jews in their traditional dress, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish pilgrims, and tourists from all over the world. I remember how exotic it all seemed, especially when we saw the people from the Far East and African nations, many of whom came in traditional dress to see, experience, and worship in the Holy City. It was a wondrous experience of cultural diversity, beyond anything I’d ever expected.

Recently, I was driving to the office when I saw a group of women getting off a bus to go to work a one of the local hotels. I believe that they were Somalis, wearing their long, flowing, traditional robes. What surprised me about seeing them, was that it didn’t surprise me. I realized that what had been so exotic twenty-some years ago in Jerusalem, is now quite natural and commonplace in the Minneapolis that we live in today.

I thought about the people I work with … people we work with … people from all over the world who have come together to create the organization we see here tonight. That’s what’s truly wondrous. While I love to travel, it’s no longer necessary to travel to see the world. The world is here!

As an organization, we are privileged to employ people from a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Our employees have included recent immigrants and visitors from a number of African nations including Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Cameroon … Others have been from countries such as Nepal, Pakistan, and Ukraine. Some of our employees have included those whose families arrived in the United States in more recent years, such as those from Latin America, or those of Hmong or Korean heritage … or in more distant years such as those whose families came from Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, and other European countries … as well as those of African American heritage. Our employees have also included Native Americans, whose ancestors arrived in the Americas many thousands of years ago.

As an organization, we recognize the value of a diverse workforce and intend to create an organization that is greater as a result of the richness of contributions that a diverse workforce can bring. Our intent is to foster an environment in which all employees can contribute to the goals of the organization, informed by their own unique cultural heritage, and, thereby, are able to experience both personal and professional fulfillment and growth.

In the same way, we want to be an organization that is culturally sensitive to our consumers and their families. We will continue to strive to adapt our programs to address and incorporate their individual cultures. We intend to be a place where families and consumers of all cultural backgrounds can feel welcomed, recognized, and appreciated.

As a part of our efforts to achieve this goal, we’ve invited you all here so that we might all have the opportunity to share and to learn more about each other and the cultures from which we all come, and to celebrate our diversity!

So, once again, welcome to you all!