RadioBDC Logo
It's About Time | Young The Giant Listen Live
 
 
< Back to front page Text size +

Harvard forum tackles key issues in global citizenship

Posted by Chad O'Connor  February 15, 2014 06:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Boston’s vibrant civil society - universities included - produces a cornucopia of programming on international issues such as global health and international security. But this wealth of programming is often provided without a sense of guiding purpose and can be difficult for young people to make sense of. At Harvard, for instance, multiple organs of the university work independently on seemingly disconnected global issues.

In an effort to make sense of how we fit into an increasingly globalized world and bring together some disparate parts of the university, Adams House - one of the twelve undergraduate “Houses” or dormitories at Harvard - recently hosted a conference on the “global citizenship.” At the closing event, having been asked what he had written about this topic, Amartya Sen said, “I’m not sure that I’ve written about global citizens, but I suppose I am one, which is easier.” Sen was the cream of a crop of expert speakers marshaled from across Boston, as well as from New York City, Wellington, New Zealand, and Washington, D.C. Interestingly, this small, optimistic conference in Boston neatly overlapped with larger diplomatic gatherings in Switzerland (Davos and Geneva II) that produced little cause for optimism.

Tackling issues ranging from reconstruction in Chilean disaster areas to security in East Asia to foreign public diplomacy in the US, the conference’s speakers raised awareness of different aspects of global citizenship and provided insights from their rich professional experience. For me, the seminars were a testament to the idea that discussion can, at times, inspire more impactful learning than reading. I especially noted some of the younger professionals at the conference who served as a testament to the idea that young people can and should be working on big global issues.

The conference’s guiding words came from Adams House alumnus Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the shortest inaugural address on record, part of an austere wartime ceremony in January 1945, FDR reflected on the lessons our great nation had learned in the preceding years: “We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.” Fittingly, when he was an undergraduate at Harvard, FDR lived in the same buildings as now comprise Adams House. In recent years the FDR Suite Foundation, a newly founded non-profit, has lovingly restored the exact suite where FDR lived to an approximation of its 1904 luster. And since the Suite’s physical restoration is now essentially complete, the FDR Suite Foundation has expanded its mission to providing fellowships and supporting this conference in the spirit of FDR’s memory.

In terms of how individuals can make a substantial difference, several speakers talking about public diplomacy highlighted how personal relationships across borders can sometimes have a substantial impact on international affairs. Indeed, from the conference emerged a collective sense that we all ought to take up the mantle of global citizenship – that global issues such as climate change, war and poverty are too big for governments to tackle alone and demand the attention of all of us. Special thanks are owed to Adams Housemasters Judy and Sean Palfrey, Jed Willard of the Public Diplomacy Collaborative at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Michael Weishan of the FDR Suite Foundation and Andrés Ballesteros for their work in making the conference a reality.

Ben Lamont is a senior at Harvard College concentrating in Government and South Asian Studies.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

ABOUT GLOBAL BUSINESS HUB
Boston World Partnerships' expert "Connectors" discuss business strategy, entrepreneurship, Boston's place in the world economy, and much more. Using their insider perspective, they illuminate how Boston's innovative companies start, grow, scale, and go global.

Meet Boston's coolest, smartest and most dynamic founders in our REEL Innovators video series!
archives