Let Them Eat Cake

While many historians dispute whether the words were ever spoken, chances are you’ve heard Marie Antoinette’s quote, “let them eat cake.” The majority of historians agree on the context of the quote. The story goes that Marie was raised in a home where her table was always overflowing with food – including bread and cakes. She had never experienced anything but an overabundance of food in her own life, and so when starvation struck those in her community, she innocently offered what she thought was a common-sense solution – if there isn’t any bread…”let them eat cake.”

Rather than being a cold and wicked comment in the face of widespread starvation, historians seem to agree that Marie had a cultural disconnect. I think today in America is very much the same – it’s not that we don’t care about the adversity of others, but rather than we lack an understanding of it.

If that’s the case – what can we do about it? The answer is to start a dialogue and be open to what you might learn from that exchange. Dialogue gives us an opportunity to hear the thoughts, feelings, challenges and successes of those who are culturally different from us – and with that comes the beginning of understanding.

It’s important to remember that culturally different doesn’t mean you have to travel a great distance – one of the first things I did when I came to Loretto was to open a dialogue with employees. Those of you who have read my book know that dialogue is something I come back to constantly. Those employees are from the same city I am – but the cultural differences between us are many.

We’re in the midst of the holiday season – which means plenty of time with family and friends for many of us. Over these next few weeks, and throughout the upcoming year, when you hear a comment that sounds indifferent, think of Marie. Rather than being quick to judge, look for an opportunity for dialogue. If your experience is like mine, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.