EMAIL 11: February 14, 2006
What does it mean to be a global/citizen?
"None of us would ever wish the evil that was done on September the 11th. Yet after America was attacked, it was as if our entire country looked into a mirror and saw our better selves. We were reminded that we are citizens, with obligations to each other, to our country, and to history. We began to think less of the goods we can accumulate, and more about the good we can do. For too long our culture has said, "If it feels good, do it." Now America is embracing a new ethic and a new creed: "Let's roll." In the sacrifice of soldiers, the fierce brotherhood of firefighters, and the bravery and generosity of ordinary citizens, we have glimpsed what a new culture of responsibility could look like. We want to be a nation that serves goals larger than self. We've been offered a unique opportunity, and we must not let this moment pass. My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years -- 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime -- to the service of your neighbors and your nation...And America needs citizens to extend the compassion of our country to every part of the world." -
I guess this email comes as an initial reaction to my nearly 6 months abroad. During my travels and experiences, I have come to appreciate and the importance of learning about our national and international affairs. Everyone I have met, locals or fellow travelers, all seem well-informed about international and national politics and events. Recently, I tried to define what it means to be a global citizen or the act of civic participation and to identify the people in my life who represent true and inspirational citizens.
This email is to by know means belittle the intelligence of anyone, but to expose the reality that there are many younger Americans who most likely chose a reality show like the Bachelor over the State of the Union address last month. And I only hope more young people have the chance to explore international issues or travel in the future for pleasure or academics.
So, as a result, I have put together a list of questions or comments in regards to US or international events.... mainly geared to my fellow friends and peers to in a way test their knowledge of the events that affect their current lives. Granted, I know my excuse for not keeping up with the news was "school", and now I am sure many of my friends say they don't have time because of "work." However, at nearly 23 and from this trip, I've realized there is no longer an excuse to be uninformed.. as a Professor Demo always said it is part of your civic duty to stay informed" regardless of your personal or politcal beliefs, media, etc. I was proud to see that many of my friends exercised their right to vote in the 2004 elections, but how many of those friends have continued to follow Washington post- voting day?
Granted, there is something to be said about today's media and its way of manipulating what we "know" in regards to access to knowledge, but we can't let that be an excuse for ignorance. If anything it should drive us to challenge the media or look for other outlets including international sources, blogs, op-ed columns, papers overs tv, radio, etc.
So, .... US-Related:
Lastly, in the recent weeks in Buenos Aires, I have spent a lot of time identifying the people who inspire me. Inspire me to be the person I am today and the person I aspire to be in the future. At first, I tried to think of the "idolized" historical figures, but then I realized there are so many people who are close to me that have impacted the way I think about life and make decisions and their present-day influences are stronger than the historical figures who I only know about their historical events. I came up with three-- to keep it simple-- who represent well rounded, global citizens and who will continue to provide me with insight or inspiration over the next 6.5 months.
Well, I realize this email was a bit random than the others, but I feel it is important to realize our strengths and weakenesses as American citizens. We have a privilege that so many other do not have and many who will never have. We have daily freedoms, personal liberties, democracy, choice, just elections, daily conveniences, and maybe too many luxuries.... With everything that we have, what can we do to give back? How do we utilize the tools that we have to create change---personal change, community change, state change, national change, or global change. Anything is possible, anyone can make a difference... It goes back to the saying, are leaders born or made? I guess that's for you to decide. Young Americans have the power to make a difference, including the recent grads whom feel confined to the reality of working life... you just have to make the the time, put in the effort, have faith, and know it will be worth it in the end! (And even if it's just mobilizing people within your office team.)
Cheers from Buenos Aires (Things are going great...after 4 full days in bed with the flu/fever!) Pictures are updated online of Brazil www.vanderbilt.edu/travelfellowship/hogan. I've attached a few pictures from Iguazu falls last weekend with John, Vanderbilt graduate.
PS--- Best of luck with Vanderbilt Dance Marathon this weekend!!! To everyone at Vanderbilt-- stop by if you can or at least take the time to visit the Children's Hospital before you graduate, you won't regret it! Trust me, Ive been volunteering here in BA at a "Children's Hospital" (more like old small clinic with patients on top of one another with parents, old beds, poor sanitation,etc.) for children undergoing dialysis... We are so fortunate...