The world’s population is growing at a staggering pace, which is a relatively new phenomenon. After expanding only a tiny fraction for tens of thousands of years, according to History.com, the population hit one billion in the 1700s. The following century, the number of people in the world quadrupled.
Today, we have seven billion diverse people living on this planet. More than 200,000 babies are born every day, and most are from less developed countries. In fact, only 5% of the world’s population lives in the United States.
Yet despite our differences, in today’s global economy, we are all interconnected and interdependent.
In order to sustain the world’s social and economic well-being we must educate, inspire and engage American students in international affairs and the critical global issues of our time. Global education presents an opportunity to instill in students a sense of belonging and responsibility to a larger world community. It gives students a deeper understanding and perspective of the world and world affairs, thereby promoting acceptance and tolerance. Our success depends on our ability to embrace diversity and understand world dynamics. Our future leaders must be prepared for the profound changes heading our way and the only way to prepare is to shift our approach to education.
That’s why the work of the World Affairs Council – Washington, D.C., (WAC-DC) is so essential. The mission of the WAC-DC is to expand awareness of political, business and civic issues in our interconnected world. They provide the tools, resources and training to bring International education into high school classrooms. They focus on fostering grassroots understanding and engagement on international affairs and global issues. The intent is for high school students to become more culturally aware and competent by exchanging ideas, acquiring knowledge and building understanding of global issues.
I am honored to serve as Vice Chair of the WAC-DC Board of Directors and proud to serve as Chair of their 35th Annual Global Education Gala. The Gala honors individuals who are committed to engaging students in global education, international affairs and global communications. At this year’s event, more than 800 academic, business and civic leaders from around the world will gather to honor the following individuals who are committed to engaging students in international affairs, global communication and global education:
- Educator of the Year: Javier Miyares, President, University of Maryland College
- Global Communications Award: Shane Smith, Co-Founder and CEO, VICE Media
- Distinguished Diplomatic Service Award: Peter Wittig, Federal Republic of Germany’s Ambassador to the United States
- Global Education Award: Reeta Roy, President and CEO, The MasterCard Foundation
In addition to hosting the Gala, WAC-DC provides professional development opportunities for teachers and enrichment programs for high school students including the Leadership Academy and Youth Forum. These programs enable thousands of students and teachers to make connections between national issues and broader themes, build essential skills in critical thinking and leadership, and provide them with the experiences they need to think globally.
Students need to develop cross-cultural skills and attitudes in order to become effective citizens in a very diverse and pluralistic world. Students are increasingly confronted with issues that require a global literacy and an understanding of global events – Infusing global awareness into curriculum instruction can help students critically examine their own perspectives and connections in the local, national, and global levels. All students must be given tools to help them develop attitudes, knowledge, and skills necessary to become competent, responsible, and contributing global citizens. Working with organizations like the World Affairs Council, we can develop future leaders who are prepared to compete – and win – in today’s global economy.
Michael Norris is President & COO, Corporate Services for Sodexo.