From the president: Becoming global citizens

This presidential column originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of The Bulletin

FIFTY YEARS AGO this fall, the first Study-Service Term (SST) units were launched after a visionary faculty voted unanimously to make international education a required part of our core curriculum, with our own faculty leading groups of students in a full academic term of experiential learning. This was a phenomenal innovation for any U.S. college or university at that time, and continues to make Goshen College outstanding today.

This year, as we celebrate SST and imagine its future, we are focusing on our core value of “global citizenship.” I offer three propositions for us to consider as we seek to live into this value ever more fully:

First, global citizenship entails empathy and imagination — the capacity to see from the others’ point of view. As we grow up, part of being human is to be trained in the ways of our family and our culture. We need this cultural blanket to feel secure, especially during childhood. But to be educated toward global citizenship, we need to move outside of our home culture and, if we do not shrink from it, to feel the profound disorientation of that. Might this be a part of what Jesus meant when he said: “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”? (Matthew 18:3)

Second, global citizens are trained to see and feel the connections between things — connections direct and indirect, positive and negative, between our daily lives and those of other people nearby and in distant places — and as we see these connections, to explore the ethical obligations that follow from those connections.

Third, global citizens encourage in one another the disposition and skills to act on those obligations in the interests of transformative justice. We are willing to use or even to sacrifice the rights and privileges of our individual citizenship to be a good neighbor, trusting that ultimately we will not be diminished, but enriched. Our most limited resources are not money or airfares or even visas; they are compassion, imagination and courage. Can we educate one another in these capacities?

This is the work of faith. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “When we see social relationships controlled everywhere by the principles which Jesus illustrated in his life — trust, love, mercy and altruism — then we shall know that the kingdom of God is here.”

This year, Goshen College is a community comprised of students from 37 states and 27 countries and alumni living in 50 states and 82 countries. Let us educate one another with empathy and imagination, seeking beauty and goodness in each other. See the connections. Explore the obligations arising from those connections. Act in the interests of justice. Global citizenship at Goshen College begins wherever we are, right now.