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Americans as Global Citizens
Celebrate “Interdependence” Day this Fourth of July
by Jim kenney
T
wo contrasting visions of the future countries to find lasting solutions to poverty
present themselves today. One acts and injustice, summarizes the emerging
upon and reacts to outdated values concept of global citizenship. The global
of self-interest: cultural superiority, exclu- citizen:
sive rights, social injustice, environmental
degradation and war. The other responds • Takes responsibility for their
with values grounded in mutual respect own actions.
more suited to the new world reality: equity,
inclusive rights, social justice, sustainability
• Respects and values diversity.
and peaceful conflict resolution. The first
• Is outraged by social injustice.
point-of-view fosters danger, darkness and
discord. The second yields greater abun-
• Stays aware of the wider world
dance and fullness of life for all.
and their role as a global citizen.
Today, Americans have the opportunity
to embrace a more expansive, updated and
• Understands how the world works,
urgently needed ethic, known as global
economically, socially, politically,
citizenship. With rapid travel and instant
A global citizen is
culturally, technologically and
communications, we have become global motivated by local
environmentally.
citizens. We need to discern what we have
interests, such as love
in common as we celebrate the differences
• Participates in and contributes to
that enrich human life.
of family, communal the community from the local to
As Americans, we rely upon freedoms fairness and self-
the global level.
that are essential to any progressive society:
interest, as well as • Acts to make the world a more
freedom from want and fear and freedom
of speech and expression, as well as belief.
global interests, based
sustainable place.
But, we are too often insular rather than on a sense of universal
The call for change demands that
engaged. Fewer than 20 percent of U.S. citi-
equality and care for
we embrace a life of learning, engage
zens have passports. A National Geographic
Society test showed that 11 percent of U.S.
fellow humans, human
creatively with other cultures and prac-
tices, embrace the new complexity of
high school students could not find even rights and dignity.
an interdependent world and continually
their own country on a world map. Fifteen
adapt to new realities. A broader vision,
famous writers commissioned by the State
embracing and integrating different per-
Department to write about what it means to be an American
spectives, is vital to every member of the planetary com-
for an international digest had no sense of how to write for
munity.
people who are not Americans.
In such an environment, how can we prepare ourselves
Jim Kenney is former global director of the Council for a
to rise responsibly to the occasion to protect other peoples’
Parliament of the World’s Religions, executive director of
freedoms, as well as our own, especially when we are chal-
the Interreligious Engagement Project and co-founder and
lenged daily by perceived threats and resultant restrictions of
director of Common Ground, an adult education program
our liberties? Solutions are rarely simple in a complex era, but
based in Deerfield, IL (cg.org).
finding answers has never been more essential to the survival
of our species.
Primary Sources: WorldBank.org; Oxfam.org; PEN World
Oxfam International, a confederation working in 100
Voices statement by Eliot Weinberger.
July 2009 17
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