Asking Open-ended Questions


Did you ever wonder how you got to a one of those “Wow” milestones in your life? I’m about to attend and help facilitate a White House meeting about HIV/AIDS and homelessness and as I ponder the road that led here I’m thinking of all the people I will be channeling today. Mentors come to mind.

I’ve had some amazing mentors in my life but the ones I remember best are those who kicked my intellectual butt. Socrates once said that an unexamined life is one not worth living. I’m down with that. But who has time these days for intellectual discourse or issue analysis? Isn’t it more efficient to let Anderson or Rachel figure it out?

The nuns who taught me k through 12 would say “no”. They asked tough questions. Lots of them. They demanded deep, thoughtful answers. Their only caveat was to raise your hand before shouting one out, a practice I still follow today and would even if I was being water boarded …. they were that persuasive.

No one ever asks open ended questions anymore. Who has time? When was the last time Survey Monkey engaged you in discourse about healthcare reform or about Congress’ recent vote to disallow import of cheaper pharmaceuticals from Canada? Maybe the next time you get sick you can text a friend about it. Oh sorry, texting is limited and you’ll never get through the politics of the drug industry in 1000 characters or less.

If you ask the tough questions you might find out that the Administration lobbied for this as part of its deal with the pharmaceutical industry to support healthcare reform. Now if Sister Mary Norman was still around she might ask, “Do you think this stinks of price fixing within the industry?” or “How will this deal affect healthcare disparities for the poor or underinsured?”. She’d keep you after school if you tried to post her on Facebook.

I don’t know about you but I think we got a bum deal. Maybe it’s because we stopped asking questions when Googling became a verb. Or maybe it’s because mentors went out of style like Murjani. Perhaps it’s time for us to resurrect the tradition. After all if we don’t start challenging the younger generation, they are bound to repeat our mistakes. We learned once that Silence = Death. We don’t want to have to learn that lesson again. Do we?

Image Credit: mmarftrejo

About The Author

Ms. Quattrochi is the Chief Executive Officer of Bailey House, an award winning community based organization that since 1983 pioneered permanent supportive housing for persons living with HIV/AIDS. Ms. Quattrochi, an advocate committed to housing as a human right, has worked for the rights of low income men and women living with HIV/AIDS and the communities that serve them to have access to housing, healthcare and HIV prevention. She serves on numerous national and local boards and is playing a key role in the development of national AIDS policy under the Obama administration as a member of the policy consortium briefing the President and his staff on issues critical to the epidemic here and globally.

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