THE PILOT EDITORIAL - Diversity as Storm Lake advantage

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Last week, we explored the strategic plans of the chamber of commerce and area development group for the coming year.

What doesn't show up in those plans, but is still in the philosophical forefront for the CEO of those two groups now joined-at-the-hip, is equally telling.

Ethnic diversity - the very thing that has brought Storm Lake the most criticism from outside - is one thing that has made it stronger from the inside, Chris Nolte said.

Sometimes newcomers here see that more clearly than those who have lived all or most of our lives here.

And Nolte isn't just talking political correctness here. He says - and is right in saying - that a community that has gone through multicultural growth is more interesting and dynamic than all those in which everyone looks, speaks, worships, celebrates and thinks in the same ways.

"I believe Storm Lake children are fortunate to grow up in a place where people of multiple cultures and backgrounds co-exist. That's the way the world they will have to grow up in works," Nolte said.

That's pretty well said. A degree in international affairs can't do half for a kid what going to second grade with a Vietnamese friend, a Mexican friend, a Canadian friend and an African friend will. For all we learn about the differences in people, we somehow discover much more about the similarities.

Nolte has an interesting idea. Why not, he wonders, take the Storm Lake Diversity Diner on the road?

The diner was born perhaps of the Diversity Day in the high school, when community members of all different backgrounds came in to share their specialty foods with kids and community visitors.

When Storm Lake hosted RAGBRAI last summer, the idea evolved into the Diversity Diner, equipped to share those tastes with the masses.

Nolte wonders what might happen if Storm Lake's Diversity Diner was added as a feature to the Iowa State Fair.

We doubt there is a faster route to understanding than through the belly. Somehow, Storm Lake needs to share its realization that not only are we not willing to take any crap from anyone about our ethnic diversity, we are going to celebrate it as one more advantage of a unique and vital Iowa community.

People like Chris Nolte standing up and saying so is a good first step. Then, let's see what else we might be able to cook up - together.