Cultivating Interdependence: We Live As Global Citizens

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” — Pico Iyer

The first time we looked at earth from space, there was a significant shift in human consciousness. We are all in this together, we are interdependent—and the variety and diversity of our world is what brings beauty, creativity, challenge, and sustainability for all of us—and we need to nurture that and celebrate it.

Ten years ago, when we developed our commitments to creating the future we yearn for, we captured this idea in our second commitment: We live as global citizens, cherishing our common humanity and respecting our diversity.

We asked some members of our team to reflect on how that commitment shows up for them in their work and their lives. You’ll notice a common theme of travel and cultivating a diverse set of experiences. Here’s what they said:

Aimee: I’ve been fortunate to be able to travel a lot in my life, and some of that at a very young age. Working at a refugee camp in Hawaii at 15 and a Community Medical Clinic in the Dominican Republic at 17 gave me a very visceral sense of our common humanity and the huge inequities suffered. I’ve continued to travel to other 2nd and 3rd world countries and marveled at how — regardless of our vast palette of diversity — we are still more alike than different.

Whitney: I grew up in Oak Park, IL. It’s the first suburb west of Chicago and known for many things, including its plethora of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and diversity. In the 1960s, Oak Park decided to integrate its neighborhoods rather than segregate them. To this day, Oak Park is a thriving community that benefits from the many advantages of diverse ideas, people, religions, sexual orientations, races, and more. I am the product of Oak Park and very proud of that fact! Oak Park has taught me many things over the years, but most of all, it’s taught me that differences should not be feared, they should be encouraged.

Carrie: I realized what it meant to be a global citizen when I lived in Germany while working for a multinational enterprise software corporation, I also worked for four multinational corporations and lead global teams, I’ve volunteered on projects with Global Volunteers (Tanzania; Southern Italy; Peru), and — travel, travel, and more travel.

Gretchen: Travel has been the greatest influence on my perspective on what it means to be a global citizen. I think it is hard to be narrow minded about our place in the world when you travel, meet different people, experience different cultures and see the positive and negative impacts that humans have had on our planet both politically and ecologically.

Lila: I’m lucky to have been raised in a city as diverse as Oakland, and to continue to find myself surrounded by other cultures in Davis. Having friends and roommates who were born in Mexico and India has given me a better understanding of how different everyone’s experiences may be based on their background (even if they are another student my own age at the same school) and how important it is to respect those differences.

Lili: My time in the Peace Corps for sure, and all of my travels really. The more people you meet from different backgrounds the more commonalities you realize we all have despite those differences. As my boot camp instructor always says, “Get out of your comfort zone! Push yourself!”

Mary: I haven’t traveled outside the country all that much, but when I do, I always latch on to the thing we have in common — we are all human! And we all have basic human feelings that we need to look after. I’ve worked in employee comms for global companies for the past couple of decades, and have had the opportunity to learn about the differences in cultures… and the similarities.

Tom: Witnessing up-close how our own children have embraced their opportunities to travel, study, and learn abroad. Their experiences (and the times we’ve spent with them while they’ve been abroad) have given me a much greater appreciation of both the incredible diversity and the fundamental humanity people share.

Kate: When I was a child, my parents hosted many International Students in our home. It shaped my ability to listen, as I had to practice that skill a lot to understand English spoken with many different accents. My mother was and still is a great model for cherishing our common humanity. She always engages with people who do not speak native English, and she always asks them questions. There is no better way to prove our connectedness than to just ask someone about their family, their hometown, their passions, their fears. You realize quickly that we all have them.

Liana: Living abroad taught me that different is not deficient. Once I learned to appreciate new experiences, ways of doing things, food, and ideologies as simply different rather than trying to determine whether they were better or worse than what I was used to, my experience became infinity richer. I think this perspective made me more accepting, loving, open, curious, and genuinely fascinated by how many different ways there are to experience and understand our world — which is ultimately what being a global citizen is all about. On a completely separate note, I was recently inspired by this call to respect others — especially those who don’t agree with us.

Christina: It started when I was 15. I had traveled to Germany as an exchange student. After having been in the country for a few weeks, my host family and I got a visit on a Sunday from one of the local farmers. He was dressed in his Sunday finest. He arrived at breakfast time, start near my host father for a time, did not accept anything to either eat or drink. After a time, he asked me to explain why President Reagan was deploying Patriot missiles on German soil. I responded initially that I was only 15 and it had nothing to do with me. He said that as an American, I needed to give him an answer. That experience has never, ever left me. It made me realize that firstly, as an American, I can not use ignorance as a defense. That, as a citizen of a world power, I had a responsibility to understand and hold my government accountable for its action. I also learned that outside of the US, people make a point of educating themselves about world affairs and pay attention to what other nations do because it really matters. Thirdly, I learned that we live in a totally interconnected world, that “over there” is not out of sight, out of mind. That experience shaped what I studied at university, where I lived and worked for the majority of my adult life, it drove (and drives) my passion to learn foreign languages and to learn about other cultures because for me, this is where humanity and understanding come from. Read more about Christina’s story here.

Lori: Growing up in the Bay Area and living and going to school among such a diverse population certainly was the first experience that shaped my perspective of what it means to be a global citizen. Many of my friend’s parents, grandparents or great grandparents came from other parts of the world not that long before. We had various religious backgrounds and different cultural celebrations — and that was “normal”. I know everyone has a different view of what “normal” is depending on their perspective. I’m thankful that to me diversity and respecting our differences has always been what’s “normal” to me.

Karen: I believe all of my life experiences have contributed to me cherishing our common humanity and respecting people’s differences. Growing up in a very diverse community was certainly part of that.

Sarah: Living in Morelia, Mexico during my college years, where I studied Mexican literature at a school where Mexican students were studying English. I gained a new perspective of the U.S. from the outside-in during that time. Anytime I travel internationally, I value what I learn about the world and the numerous perspectives in it.