Brianna Hopkins continued her explanation of talent – especially the impact of one person’s talent on society. What she was discovering was that the biases that exist in society were a great deterrent to the development of talent. She wondered how much society suffered because it never developed the talent of all its citizens. She thought about this as she reviewed the contribution of Maya Lin to America.
Maya Lin grew up in Athens, Ohio. Her parents immigrated to the United States, but Maya was born in the U.S. Maya never thought much about her cultural heritage growing up and desired to pursue her talent in design.
While at Yale, Maya entered a public design competition. There were 1,422 entries, but Maya’s was very different. The submissions were anonymous to encourage the review panel to value the design concept over the reputation of the designer.
Rather than a design featuring an image or a grand looking structure, Maya’s design was simply a black granite wall. Maya’s design was accepted and has become one of the most treasured memorials in America: The Vietnam War Memorial.
The acceptance of Maya’s design was controversial. Ross Perot, a candidate for President, called her an “egg roll.” The fact that the judges didn’t know her ethnicity or her lack of experience contributed to the selection of a design that has changed the way we think of memorials.
Brianna thought about how society has long struggled with the acceptance of differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and other invented ways to imagine how others are different from us. Those who visit the Vietnam War Memorial are often brought to tears as they see the vast number of names of those who died as a result of the Vietnam conflict. What they don’t realize is that many of those names represent persons whose backgrounds are very different from theirs. We can treasure and weep at the sacrifices others made for our nation, but yet we can’t seem to accept our differences.
Brianna began to realize what Henry was trying to do with his foundation. She wanted her next interview to focus on how to open up society to accept the talents of all its citizens.
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“I refuse to allow any man-made differences to separate me from any other human beings.”
– Maya Angelou (American poet and civil rights activist)