Saturday, July 21, 2012

Transborders Solutions Global Blog: Preview "Changing World - Passports"

Transborders Solutions Global Blog: Preview "Changing World - Passports"

Changing World - Passports

I've had a passport for as long as I can remember, but vividly recall attending numerous international conferences over the years, at which mildly accusatory speakers from the U.S. and overseas, trotted out dismal statistics on the number of U.S. citizens who didn't have passports. When I traveled overseas, the subject also came up frequently, all to point out blatantly or subtly, how parochial the people in my country were. Somehow the U.S. was "defective"--less knowledgeable, less cultured, less well less, fill in the blank, because its citizens didn't have passports in large numbers. What could I say? I too was dismayed that more people in my country didn't share my enthusiasm for work or travel outside the confines of the U.S. As time passed the subject came up less often, so when it came up recently, I decided to get the facts for myself. Surely there had been an evolution in our connections to the rest of the world at the citizen level. I knew that more and more U.S. citizens needed to travel outside the U.S. for work, to countries a few years back they might not know anything about. The number of young people who considered themselves global citizens or globe trotters or just globally savvy had also grown. Universities realized that their institutions would be judged on the amount of international exposure and number of skills they could offer students. So here is the pleasant surprise. According to Forbes, one-third of the U.S. population or roughly 110 million citizens now have passports. How has this changed in the past years? In 2000, 48 million U.S. citizens had passports which means in twelve years the total has more than doubled. Go back a little further to 1989 and you'll find that only 7 million U.S. citizens had passports, under 3% of our population. How frequently they are being used and where people are going, I don't know, though I'm sure those statistics are available as well. Take heart U.S. citizens. More and more of us are learning to navigate and connect to the rest of the world and soon, I predict the majority of our citizens will have passports and use them.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Peace Corps at 50

"In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an Executive Order establishing the Peace Corps, forever changing the way America sees the world and the world sees us. Today, one of President Kennedy's most enduring legacies can be found in the over 200,000 current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers who have collectively given over a half century of service to the cause of peace. On its 50th anniversary, the United States Peace Corps remains an enduring symbol of our Nation's commitment to encouraging progress, creating opportunity, and fostering mutual respect and understanding throughout the world." President Barack Obama, February 28, 2011

In a couple of months, my son will join the ranks of those who have chosen to serve in the Peace Corps and though the world seems more cynical, he is not. He believes in the power of individuals to make a difference in places most Americans will never visit or even hear about. For two years and three months, in jobs that will change him for sure, he will engage in national service on an international scale, somewhere in East Asia, somewhere on the water. I admire his willingness to undertake what will surely be an elating and extremely challenging set of experiences. It takes courage and heart to join the Peace Corps and be successful in it. He has that in abundance. It is definitely not about the money--time enough to work on that for the rest of his life.

What does it mean when you raise a child to think of him or herself as part of the larger world and not only a citizen of a specific country? Surely it means that when they leave home they will likely leave thousands of miles and scores of countries between you--not a comforting thought to an aging parent But how can I object in any way? My husband and I set the play in motion through scores of excursions outside the U.S., countless meals and adventures with people not from "here." and early and continuous exposure to volunteering to help people in other countries with so much less materially than we are used to, but sometimes so much more otherwise. That's just who we are and the way we have chosen to live and out of those choices another choice has been made.

Congratulations Thomas. You are now an official citizen of a world that needs you and thousands like you. Here's to the world's practical idealists and to the Peace Corps. May they continue to thrive.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said, "Global poverty is a powder keg that could be ignited by our indifference."

Yet every day I discover new antidotes for global despair in the form of cutting-edge non-profits working on the world's enormous problems. From hunger, poverty and the rights of women to drought, HIV/AIDS and water scarcity, these non-profits have a desire for a better world that seems unstoppable. The founders may or may not be rich and they may just as easily live in Middletown, Ohio, as Jakarta, Indonesia. Somehow, their own lives have been touched in such a way that they are compelled to do the work they do. Americans are charitable and caring especially since many of us know, compared to the rest of the world, we have too much. Our instincts to share and help are a deep part of our heritage and simply right.