Giving the keynote address at the National Latino Heritage Month celebration in Storm Lake was Michele Soria, a Des Moines-based speaker who does workshops in diversity training.
When Soria took the stage, she introduced herself and told the customary joke all speakers must tell.
Then she was silent. It was only for a few minutes, but felt like years as Soria stood on stage, moving only her eyes as she surveyed the audience, which was anxiously anticipating her next word.
When she did break the silence, she told the audience that they just experienced the "void" - a place all too familiar for those with differences, she added.
"This is the void that newcomers experience every day," she said. "The void arises anytime someone interacts with a difference."
The void comes from a lack of understanding, she explained. A prime example is when people are faced with those who are different, she said.
"There are some times that people don't know what the rules are, or what's happening," she said. "The responses can vary: fear, resistance, hostility, avoidance, denial."
Soria explained that the void arises from people's expectations and prejudices. She quoted the author Leron Bennet.
"People act out of their images - they do not respond to the situation, but to the situation changed by the images in their minds."
Read the rest of this article in the 9/19 Pilot Tribune.