Forum provides space for "Mediations on Global Citizenship

By Tom Lisi

The Institute for Global Citizenship inaugurated a spring conference last weekend titled the Macalester Civic Forum: Meditations on Global Citizenship. The many questions and comments that emerged from faculty speeches and participation from the audience made one thing clear: defining Global Citizenship is no clear-cut task.A forum Thursday night, and two days of guest lectures and student-led discussion that followed were in no way designed to define, but rather provide “meditations on global citizenship,” or offer perspectives on how to practice global citizenship, as well as implications of doing so.

Associate Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship Andrew Latham and President Brian Rosenberg offered opening remarks for the weekend.

In the speeches that followed, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Diane Michelfelder, Chaplain Lucy Forster-Smith, Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity Jane Rhodes, and Dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship Ahmed I. Samatar, offered their perspectives on global citizenship.

Michelfelder noted that global citizenship is an active state, where an intellectually sustainable environment is increasingly important. Forster-Smith spoke on how creating bridges indicates that there is separation in the first place, and that global citizenship involves learning to be a human capable of love and imagination. Rhodes emphasized that race matters and must remain an integral part of the discussion. Samatar closed the meditations by offering a porcupine analogy that suggested the importance of asserting one’s own individuality while working in unity with other individuals in one’s surroundings.

Emmett D. Carson, internationally recognized as a catalyst for progressive social change delivered a paper titled “Philanthropy: The New Benchmark for Global Citizenship” on Friday morning. That afternoon, David Theo Goldberg, director of the systemwide University of California Humanities Research Institute spoke on “Neoliberalizing Race.” Seyla Benhabib, the Eugene Meyer Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at Yale University delivered a paper called ” ‘Just Membership’ in a Global Community” on Saturday. Each of the talks was followed by two student discussants of various academic disciplines and a period of question and answer.

Though thought-provoking, the Macalester Civic Forum was filled with abstraction and lacked any concrete plans for the Institute’s future, something that Rhodes and Samatar both acknowledged.

Rhodes said she found the forum to be somewhat disappointing since there was little student participation or discussion on campus.

Samatar expressed enthusiasm for the ideology of the Institute for Global Citizenship and how this year’s Civic Forum furthered it, but also stressed that in the coming years, the Civic Forum will be a celebration of work by Macalester students.

The projected completion of the building to house the Institute, which will stand in Winton Health Services’ current location on Grand Ave, is the end of 2008. Samatar and Rhodes said that the process of crystallizing the role of the Institute will take years.