The Year of Global Citizenship

If you go to Dave Valentine, one of the authors of the proposal for next year’s theme, the Year of Global Citizenship, and ask him what global citizenship is, you’ll be disappointed.

“A big part of the year is letting people figure out for themselves what global citizenship is,” said Valentine, ’10, also a member of the YOGC Steering Committee. When pressed, he’ll sum it up in two words: awareness and action.

“We have such an ability to learn about other cultures,” he said, “but how often do we do something about it?” Valentine pointed to the recent earthquake in Haiti as an example of global citizenship in action, where international organizations but also millions of individuals worked together to rebuild the disaster-stricken nation.

Fellow Steering Committee member, Edayatu Lamptey, echoed his sentiments.

“We don’t have a definition,” said Lamptey, ’10. “We’re trying to get the entire community to define for themselves what it means to be a citizen of this world.”

Despite their reluctance to define what global citizenship is, the Steering Committee knows what global citizenship is not.

“We don’t want to make it international,” said Lamptey. “Rather, we want to create international awareness but also include local awareness.”

“It doesn’t only mean [internationalism],” Valentine added. “You can take it to different levels.”

“What you do in Meadville affects the world, and vice versa. If people are concerned that global citizenship only has to do with international things, it doesn’t have to mean that.”

“Just because you live in Meadville doesn’t mean you can’t participate in the world,” said Jamie Havens, incoming Vice President of Allegheny Student Government and member of the Steering Committee. “We want to broaden the scope of the way you think.”

The Steering Committee has a few different ideas to promote the idea of global citizenship for next year.

“We see ourselves coordinating two or three keynote events throughout the year,” said Professor Shannan Mattiace, chairperson of the International Studies Program and member of the Steering Committee. “The rest of the events come organically from the community.

While the event schedule has not been finalized, some possible speakers have already been contacted.

Angelique Kudjo, a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter from Benin, will be performing for next year’s Family Weekend.

George Borjas, a Harvard professor and economist who is known for his outspoken views on immigration policy, is also slated to speak, but a date has not been finalized.

Jeffrey Sachs, an economist twice-named as one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” has been invited to speak, though at the time of writing, he had not yet been confirmed.

Perhaps one of the Steering Committee’s most ambitious goals, however, is attempting to coordinate curriculum in order to create a campus-wide discussion.

To do this, the Committee is asking FS 101 professors to teach Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario, a non-fiction book which details the treacherous journey of a young Honduran boy who travels from his hometown in Honduras to America to reunite with his mother.

“When everyone reads that book, it establishes a level playing field,” said Lamptey. “Even if we have different ideas and different points of view, we are talking about the same thing.”

Nazario is also slated to come to campus on October 25 to speak about the book, as well as immigration.

The Steering Committee consciously decided to bring in academics rather than celebrities.

“In the Year of Social Change, there were a lot of celebrity keynote speakers,” said Mattiace. “That was good, but expensive.”

“This year is more on the celebrity academic side of things.”

Havens corroborated this, stating that as compared to the Year of Social Change, the “budget is much tighter.”

“We can’t give as much money as we did last year,” she admitted. “But I’m not sure if the Committee needs as much money.”

“We wanted to bring in as many people as we could on our budget,” added Marin Ping, ’10, another member of the Committee. “We wanted to have a lot of good conversations as well, and academics can get those started.”

Reaction around campus to the theme has been largely positive.

“I have every confidence in Jinnie [Templin, co-author of the proposal and member of the Steering Committee],” said Sarah Gentile, ’10, a former Student Ambassador for the Year of Social Change. “I’m glad to see they’re continuing the theme of bringing in recognizable figures.”

Steven Jones, president of the College Democrats, was equally enthusiastic.

“The Year of Global Citizenship is definitely a great theme for the college to undertake,” said Jones, ’12. “We are becoming more interconnected with advances in Internet, travel, and expanding media, and it will be exciting to see where the YOGC coordinators will direct the year.”

“We won’t get everyone on board with this, but many of us hope to go global with our careers, or in the very least keep an eye and ear open to what’s going on outside our borders.”

Derek Dye, president of the College Republicans, was skeptical.

“I think we should be more focused on acting locally before we think globally,” said Dye, ’11. “The civic engagement that would be required by the idea isn’t pragmatic.”

“As Allegheny students, our private activities during the school year leave too little time to engage actively in politics or social change at a global level.”

Only time will tell how pragmatic the theme really is.

“What excites me most is to see what the students do next year with it,” said Valentine. “A big part of the year is defining what global citizenship is for the individual.”

“If students don’t get on board with it, it doesn’t work.”