Seeds of Peace Presentation. As a Leadership Board member of the UK Seeds of Peace, I had the opportunity to advise NYU Student Council and work closely with the Office of Student Life to organize and host a co-curricular presentation of SOP in April. This event was a model of collaboration among different stakeholders of the GNU– including the students, Student Life, Academics—and a relevant global NGO such as SOP that is working to inspire and equip future world leaders. That several students will seek very prestigious internships in the NYC office of SOP upon their return, and that their contacts here in London will give them a better chance of securing one in NYC, is a clear advantage of a GNU. Students were able to connect the ideas presented by the Co-Founder of SOP, Bobbie Gottschalk, and the three ‘Seeds’ to the ideas they had encountered in their Foundations Courses, and have posted extraordinarily illuminating responses to the event on our course blog sites. The responses are revelatory as they allow us to transcend the generational divide which at times make us educators hear ‘differently’ from the very students we are charged to educate. One example stands out for me. At the event, an Arab-Israeli ‘Seed’ spoke passionately about coming into an awareness of her political identity. Sensitized to the discourses of my own generation about the politics of the region, I heard only matters that had a bearing on Middle Eastern politics. Student responses on the blog afterward revealed that our 18-year-old students, coming from different regions of the world were inspired by her story and related it to their own context and heard not at all what I had ‘tuned into’. A Chinese student spoke about her own generation’s struggle to find a voice vis-a-vis their parents’ traditions, and found the young woman’s Arab-Israeli story inspirational. This is a glimpse into the possibilities of a GNU, where longstanding discourses locked into conflictual dyads can be recontextualized, and transform.
Below are 2 comments randomly selected from the 35 freshmen responses:
“Born and brought up in a relatively monocultural society, I haven’t really experienced regional conflicts and wars. Thus I am not a political person myself. Nevertheless, the seeds of peace enlightened me in other respects. To me, it not only helps those seeds from opposing sides to get to know their ‘enemies’ but also gives these teenagers an opportunity to better orient themselves in today’s world. It really expands their horizon. It reminds me of my home country, China. Either because of parents’ strong expectation for their children to carry out their unrealized dreams or because of the somehow unsatisfactory reality, young adults in China, from my point of view, do not have their own views of today’s world and even of themselves. They rely a lot on others’ opinions but not their own thoughts. Therefore, they really don’t know their place in their country and in this world. After listening to the speech given by the first seed, I think SOP, indeed, builds a bridge for these teenagers to find their identity and leads them to think how they should contribute to the world. This discovery of one’s self, one’s passion, one’s own opinion is needed in China.”
“I found the Seeds of Peace presentation to be stimulating and enjoyable for mainly one reason: it appealed to the individual’s capacity—and, by extension, humanity’s capacity—to be good. Many of our readings, both in Social Foundations I and Social Foundations II, contain motives for doing: for Machiavelli, it was a desire for power; for St. Paul, it was a fulfillment of scripture; for Plato, it was a yearning to prove ourselves as rational creatures. People do not do anything—whether it be good, bad, neutral, or even the act of not doing, as in Daoist tradition—without an explainable reason. Seeds of Peace, however, provides an alternative motive, one that I strongly agree with and one that cannot be logically explained, because to do so would be to reveal the unidentifiable truth of what makes us human: we do for no other reason than the fact that we have the capability to do.”