Students discuss issues of global citizenship at event

By Proma Sen

A panel of four students, including two members of the Institute for Global Citizenship Student Council, explained their own interpretations of the global citizenship ideal to a group of interested members of the Macalester community Wednesday afternoon.Approximately 40 people, mostly students, attended the event, the first in a series entitled “Students Living Global Citizenship.” It was held in the Chapel basement. Members of the Student Council of the Institute for Global Citizenship intended to use the event to introduce themselves to other students.

Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09, an IGC Student Council member, was the first to speak, introducing the panelists and explaining his own experience. He began by recounting his own recent experience at the Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Program this past summer. The competitive program brought together students from around the world to meet with existing world leaders to discuss issues of global significance. Den Herder-Thomas was one of only eight Americans selected.

“One of the things that really hit me after I went there is, ‘I’ve really become global,'” Den Herder-Thomas said.

Den Herder-Thomas went on to explain the necessity of global integration between societies of differing economic and social classes.

To understand the issues there, and to discuss it as a community, Den Herder-Thomas said he believed an understanding of global citizenship was necessary. For him, global citizenship should foster the “ability to build bridges” between communities and individuals, he said.

The second speaker was Miriam Larson ’08, who expanded on Den Herder-Thomas’ definition of global citizenship, adding that for her it also meant, “being able to communicate with people in multiple spaces.” One issue that she identified as important to address was a growing division within world society between those who had opportunities for education and social mobility, and those who did not.

Kabir Sethi ’09 spoke of a connection between theory and practice within an understanding of global citizenship. He said he feared that global citizenship would remain purely a talked-about ideal rather than one practiced in everyday life.

“It’s not enough to just talk about these ideas,” he said.

Last spring and this summer, Sethi was involved with the New Americans Community Service Program as a Chuck Green Fellow, a program sponsored by the Political Science Department. Sethi worked at the New Americans clinic, helping Somali refugees sort out health insurance problems.

For Kevin Williams ’09, the fourth panelist, a global citizen is one who shows personal responsibility.

“I really feel like a lot of global citizenship has to do with personal responsibility,” Williams said. “I’m not going to blame A, B, C, or D for my problem.”

The Institute’s Associate Dean Andrew Latham and Dean Ahmed Samatar also took the opportunity to speak of their own interpretations of the global citizenship ideal and the role of the IGC in promoting it. The definition of global citizenship has intentionally been left open-ended, Latham said.

Following the event, Sethi said he was content that the forum had addressed some important questions, and perhaps helped to build awareness of global citizenship and the IGC within the Macalester community.

“There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the IGC and forums like this are therefore very important,” he said. “Bringing together students on both sides of the debate, as well as the two deans, allows concerns regarding the structure, purpose, and direction of the Institute to be raised and addressed. I am looking forward to the rest of this series, and I hope it continues to attract large audiences.