There has been a lot of talk lately surrounding the intolerance some have for those who differ from the societal majority. President Donald Trump’s recent executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and indefinitely from Syria has brought about both opposition and support. This move created confusion during its execution and has caused many to believe our progress in the United States is coming to an end and is possibly even being reversed.

The day prior to the signing of the executive order, I attended a talk focusing on global citizenship and cultural competency. The talk was a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium event series and served to let audience members hear speakers from various backgrounds present their personal interpretations of what it means to be globally minded.

Every story shared was moving and provided insight into the sheer range of experiences one can have that contribute to shaping a global citizen. One speaker, Public Health student Abbas Alawieh, claimed cultural competency is having the cultural humility to set aside your own biases about another culture, which includes the continued refinement of this humility as more cultures are experienced in a deeper way.

Each day, our world becomes a little more connected and figuratively a little smaller. With the progress of the internet and technology, our world has drastically changed even within the last 50 years. Therefore, in a time when people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to travel this planet, it is critical to realize with this opportunity comes responsibility. 

Global citizenship and cultural competency are rising phenomena that have yet to be given exact roles in the broad sense of society. There has never been a need (before now) to culturally define the connection one has with all the people of the world; therefore, it is the job of this rising generation, our generation, to bring these ideas to the forefront. Our role as millennials in this newly connected world is to lead the way in developing our global identity, not only within ourselves but also within our own culture.

Such a responsibility cannot be taken lightly. It is more than a short spring break trip that is “equal parts cultural immersion and party” that claims to leave us with the right to say we are one with the world. Global citizenship, just as any other citizenship or heritage, is a part of an individual’s identity. And as with any other part of personal identity, it takes time to develop and will change as one goes through life. 

This involves creating a world where we all have rich intercultural experiences, one in which it is no longer a luxury to learn about another way of life. Already, more and more people are going abroad for their studies, and now there is need to create a cultural environment at home that allows these individuals to share their experiences with the rest of society once they return.

Many will ask what gives millennials the authority to lead society in this endeavor. Why do we think we can change the world? It is not because we have all been gifted with some vast wisdom that skipped all other generations.

Millennials are the ones who must take on this task because we are the generation being educated in this interconnected world. Our educations and careers are being foundationally shaped by a new way of thinking that carries on to how we make decisions.

study conducted by Jane Whitney Gibson, a professor at Nova Southeastern University, asked participants belonging to the Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennial generations to rank workplace values that are the most important to them. Gibson found that even though the top values were shared across generations, millennials prioritized broadmindedness higher than any other generation.

Millennials are currently the largest living generation in the United States, which means we have the power to lead the inevitable change that is coming. We must remember the stroke of a pen is not enough to erase the mindset and goals of an entire generation.

Roland Alexander Blackwood, University of Michigan Medical School faculty lead for Leaders and Learners Pathways, was the final speaker of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day talk and left us with this idea: “You are the future. I’m old, done with my time. If someone doesn’t want you, who cares? You go where you must go … Be confident and believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone take your joy, take your thunder or control you because you belong here.”

So with this, I challenge everybody to look at their current situation and search for ways to begin the journey to global citizenship. Broadmindedness starts by interacting with nearby communities, having open conversations with members of these communities and pushing yourself into experiences from which you can learn.

As you go through this, remember why you are doing it: We are the pioneers of global citizenship; we are the ones who must lead the change we want to see in the world.

Alexis Megdanoff can be reached at amegdano@umich.edu.

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