Community Engagement
Empowering Educators and Students to Lead
Michael Norris
Michael Norris

Technology has rapidly increased globalization creating a worldwide system of integration the likes of which we have never seen or experienced before in history.  In the past, countries and their economies could be nearly 100% self-sufficient. But technology has now enabled ideas, products, services, people and knowledge to transfer around the world, linking economies and nations and making them both 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.  The need for global education is powerful. Even basic language skills are now requirements with about 25% of the world’s countries having two or more official languages and more than half the world’s population being at least bilingual. For students and educators to possess an understanding of universal values and international perspectives is a critical success factor in today’s global community.

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 36th 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:

The 2016 Honorees are:

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.

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Michael Norris is CEO of Healthcare for Sodexo North America.  With responsibility for $3.2 billion in annual revenues and 33,000 employees, Mr. Norris is committed to increasing knowledge and awareness on how individuals, organizations and communities can improve their health and well-being.


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