I think that in today’s complex, multifaceted society, most teenagers experience feelings of uncertainty and even insignificance when coming face-to-face with the vast world around them. How on earth can a seventeen year-old, who struggles to simply pass a driver’s exam, possibly make a difference in the global community? For someone like me, a senior at Oakland Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, it’s difficult to envision how someone so young could influence the lives of those within a local community let alone a foreign country. The truth is, every one of us, regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic standing, can make a difference. The circumstances that characterize our era, from the introduction of social-networking sites to the realization of globalized interconnectedness, enable each of us to discover the living conditions and ethnic customs of people from Pittsburgh to Shanghai and everywhere in between. Teenagers at home and abroad are now collaborating to affect positive, meaningful change all over the world. By voicing opinions more freely, our generation is leaving an international footprint, by raising awareness for the causes about which many of us are passionate.
For my all-girls high school, finding out about the extensive violations of women’s rights that occur in many nations deeply troubled the entire student body. As young women, fortunate enough to live in a land where equality and freedom are treasured and respected, we struggled to comprehend the devastating cultural norms and gender stereotypes that prevent girls our age from freely developing their potential and following their dreams. Committing time and energy to this vital global issue, students and faculty joined together to act on this knowledge; action is a necessary step in making a difference in the world. Mentored by a teacher, several students and I spearheaded the campaign, which included two screenings of Girl Rising,* a film which illustrates the lives of nine different girls and their struggles to gain an education. Oakland Catholic hosted a screening of this documentary-style “movement” by 10×10 Films that is meant to grant access to education for females everywhere. By inviting the local community to screenings of the film, and donating to CARE, a relief agency that aims to transform societal attitudes on female education on the grass-roots level, my school was able to advocate for and advance the mission promoted by Girl Rising.
You, too, can raise global awareness for an international issue. Today’s youth need only to research the true state of the world in order to begin to involve themselves with current events. Despite what some may say, ignorance is not bliss; it prevents equality from taking hold in communities around the world. By investigating a range of issues featured as articles in newspapers, segments on news programs, and subjects of educational lectures, high school students can learn about the institutions that both hinder and support development in various countries. Although overwhelmed by the seemingly infinite number of problems that plague society, teenagers can be encouraged by the shear amount of charity, compassion, and support that thousands of individuals and organizations provide to victims in order to eliminate such problems. The actions of individuals and communities, like what my classmates and I organized at Oakland Catholic, serve as inspiration to others, who learn of these worldwide efforts through online posts and fundraising events, to do the same for their own causes, inciting a cycle which will hopefully never be broken.
By Abigail, a student at Oakland Catholic High School
*The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh also hosted two community screenings of Girl Rising earlier this year. Due to its success and the positive feedback received, the Council plans to host a screening of Not My Life, a new documentary intended to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking around the world. The screening is anticipated for January 2014. More details will be available on our website soon.
This post is part of a series of blog articles written by student youth reporters. If you are a high school student interested in becoming a youth reporter, please contact Emily Markham 412-281-7027, or by emailing Emily@worldpittsburgh.org.
On Friday, November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit the central Philippines bringing with it mayhem and destruction. Winds of up to 195 mph caused more than $13.5 billion in damage, took the lives of over 5,000 individuals, and left more than 23,000 injured. Over 1,500 people are still missing. (See the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of the Philippines for up-to-date situation reports). In all, more than 2 million families were affected, nearly half of which have been forced to vacate their homes. Even weeks after the storm made landfall, blocked transportation routes make it difficult for aid organizations to reach the hardest hit regions of the central Philippines.
It’s hard to imagine a worse situation. Typhoon Haiyan is one of the deadliest natural disasters on record equated to the chaos experienced with the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. And, like those deadly natural disasters of the past decade, organizations and individuals around the globe are eager to help the Philippines in any way possible—especially during this time of thanksgiving.
If you’re local, and looking for a way to support those in need, there are a number of organizations right here in Pittsburgh actively seeking donations to provide necessary assistance and supplies to the Philippines.
One such organization is the Brother’s Brother Foundation, a 53 year-old Pittsburgh-based international charity, with a history of providing medical supplies, textbooks, food, seeds, and other humanitarian relief worldwide. Brother’s Brother is currently working with the Philippine American Medical Society of Western Pennsylvania (PAMS of WP) to provide both short term and long term assistance to the central Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. Donations are encouraged to cover the cost of collecting and shipping necessary materials to the Philippines.
Brother’s Brother is no stranger to humanitarian relief, and has frequently participated in international aid efforts following natural disasters; the most recent being in Japan. On a recent edition of 90.5 WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh, the Council’s very own Steven Sokol, filling in for host Paul Guggenheimer, spoke with Brother’s Brother Foundation President, Luke Hingson, about the organization and their ongoing efforts in the Philippines. You can catch the interview online, here.
Other notable organizations accepting donations include:
- The Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh (Check the FAAP website for information on future fundraisers and festivals this December to raise money for the relief effort)
- The Red Cross
- Save the Children
- Doctors Without Borders
- International Rescue Committee
Faisal Shazhad, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi: the names of these terrorist actors against the United States roll off the lips of native Pittsburgher General Michael Hayden as easily as the Steelers’ front four.
On November 18, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh hosted the former Director of both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) at a Duquesne Club policy discussion and luncheon entitled The John T. Ryan Memorial Lecture: Security, Privacy, Surveillance… and You, which focused on the delicate balance between the essential homeland function of espionage and its effect on the personal privacy of every American.
Prior to the lecture, Gen. Hayden was gracious enough to answer a few personal questions about his background during a pre-lecture reception. Hayden’s resume paints a portrait of a man born to serve. Commissioned as an Air Force officer straight out of college, Hayden quickly entered the world of intelligence. In 1984, during the Cold War, Hayden served as an air attaché for the US embassy in Bulgaria where he operated as a classic “spy”, collecting information through surveillance and eavesdropping—trained to speak the obscure language by the military, his job was to “observe and report” on Bulgarian citizens. He described this position as the “second best job I’ve ever had” and surpassed only by Director of the CIA.
Rising through the ranks, Hayden was eventually tapped to become the Director of the NSA during the Clinton administration, and later, the Director of the CIA under George W. Bush—the first person to hold both positions. Hayden remains modest. “Life demands, and then you have to respond,” he said, explaining he never pursued either job.
Sometimes, however, the definition of “necessity” changes and intelligence officers are left out in the cold. In his subsequent policy speech, the general explained the intelligence community is now challenged with three major paradigm shifts. “Our threat is changing, our technology is changing, and our political culture is changing,” he said.
Hayden nostalgically described when international conflict was between nation states (specifically, the Soviets and Americans) and involved classic military and intelligence strategies. It was a time when, Hayden said with amusement, “I didn’t lose any sleep over a fanatic living in a cave in the Hindu Kush.” However, recent technological and social advances have caused a sea-change, empowering the public and providing non-state terrorist and criminal groups greater ability to attack because they possess comparable influence to their host government. “Most of the things threatening you are the by-product of state weakness,” Hayden said, listing flashpoint locations in the War on Terror fitting the bill. The common thread, he claimed, is the lack of “effective government.” American difficulties in these regions exist because the entire national security apparatus is designed to take on other states instead of individuals, and has become bent-out-of-shape accommodating these new threats. Fighting enemy combatants face-to-face, he said, as in classical war, has turned into drone strike campaigns in Pakistan well outside the official theater of combat.
Hayden again turned to history, explaining how advances in technology are affecting intelligence practices. During the Cold War, intelligence officers in the NSA commonly intercepted communications between Moscow and Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases scouring for orders to fire on the US. This surveillance, Hayden said, never met a shred of protest from civil libertarians—and neither should today’s. He draws this comparison: “Today’s equivalent is Al-Qaeda email traffic on the same plane as yours and mine.” The only way to monitor the threat is to watch the medium used, just like the NSA did during the Cold War. The difference today, he reasoned, is that some private information is inadvertently gathered in the process. Why should Americans have a problem with the NSA using the same intelligence strategy used against Soviet aggression and threat of nuclear war? The public should be better educated to understand the type of personal data gathered is mostly irrelevant to actual individual privacy.
To the growing number of Americans that disagree and believe activists such as Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are heroes rather than traitors, the General’s explanation doesn’t suffice. This cultural shift, Hayden says, is the most important emerging paradigm in modern intelligence gathering. Society is demanding an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability from homeland security agencies, prompting Hayden to ask, “Will America be able to conduct espionage, which requires secrecy for success in the future?”
The difficulty is in the nature of the complaint. Hayden frankly proclaimed that today’s surveillance measures are categorically legal and exhibit Madisonian fulfillment: approval by all three branches of government. The problem is one of propriety—whether it is acceptable, even moral, to trade privacy for safety. Can national security bear reforms that essentially require intelligence agencies to ask suspects for permission to spy on them? Hayden submits, “I personally don’t know how you get to that conversation without destroying espionage.”
Hayden concluded by calling the room to action, asking the public to give intelligence a chance. “You’ve got to be involved with this,” he said, referencing political choice. “We’ll live with whatever you decide, but you’ve got to play.” A thinly-veiled football reference? Hayden confirmed during a lengthy question-and-answer session that his visit was timed to coincide with the previous day’s Steelers’ game. “I’ll be back for the play-offs,” he promised.
By Wesley, a student at North Allegheny Senior High School
This is the first in a series of student reporting blog posts. If you are a high school student interested in becoming a student reporter, please contact Emily Markham 412-281-7027, or by emailing Emily@worldpittsburgh.org.
Today marks the final day of the 14th annual International Education Week (IEW), an initiative that is now celebrated in over 100 countries worldwide. Supported by both the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, International Education Week is designed to celebrate and advance global educational exchange opportunities. To encourage participation, the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has made available promotional materials for schools, embassies, businesses, and community organizations to engage in their own inventive format for promoting international education. You can access these resources on their website, here. The site also highlights many of the creative events hosted by educational institutions across the country. For instance, just yesterday Fox Chapel Area High School hosted “Lunch and Language Roundtables,” inviting students to practice their language skills with native German, Spanish, Italian, and French students.
If you are interested in hosting your own global education event, you aren’t too late! Similar programs continue to take place in the coming weeks. For example:
- On November 19, 2013, Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, is holding a sampling of coffees and teas from around the world throughout the entire day.
- On Wednesday, November 20, North Carolina State University is holding a “Passport Fair,” and will host a representative from the State Department to process student passports in one simple step.
- On November 18, 2013, Moraine Park Technical College will announce the winner to their Best Travel Photograph competition. For roughly six weeks anyone could submit photos from abroad to the International Education Facebook page and viewers voted on their favorite.
The theme of this year’s International Education Week is International and Education: Learning Matters Around the World. As the many exciting events already planned indicate, many of us are passionate about the value of international education and studying abroad, and participation in these types of programs is on the rise. The most recent Open Doors report from the International Institute of Education revealed 819,644 international students studied in the United States during the 2012-2013 school year, and 283,332 American students studied abroad during the 2011-2012 school year (this data for the 2012-2013 academic year is not yet released). These statistics are impressive, showing that more students than ever are engaging in experiences abroad. Even more exciting is the fact that students aren’t the only ones immersing themselves in another country. The U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs oversees programs in 160 countries, providing opportunities to youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders.
These global exchange programs not only provide a gateway for exploration of a different culture, but they also foster some of the most highly educated and most deeply influential people of our time. Looking back to those who have participated in the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange programs, 55 are Nobel Prize winners, eight are current or former ambassadors to the United Nations, and three are current heads of international organizations. In the modern era of professional opportunities that transcend borders, the desire to promote global competency through international education programs continues to grow!
By: Samantha Harper, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern
Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Turkey is uniquely situated geographically, socially, and politically. It borders eight different countries, including an economically unstable Greece, as well as Syria, a country currently engaged in a violent civil war. Turkey is not immune to upheaval. In the last year, anti-government protesters took to the streets in many Turkish cities to demonstrate against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s alleged authoritarian policies. Turkey continues to face internal and external scrutiny of its human rights record, particularly relating to the country’s Kurdish minority, a major roadblock in Turkey’s accession to the European Union (EU). Additionally, Turkey has fought a decades-long armed struggle with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a recognized terrorist group representing the Kurdish minority.
Turkey has had its string of successes, however. The country maintains a growing economy, and was relatively unaffected by the European debt crisis. Turkey is also an ally to the United States and gets multilateral support from organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations. In a region known for harsh governance, Turkey is often praised for combining moderate Islamic rule with Western alliances. It is these domestic and foreign affairs, both beneficial and challenging, that shape Turkey’s status as a transcontinental country.
The 43rd annual World Affairs Institute took place on Thursday, November 7, 2013. This year’s title and focus, “Turkey: A Bridge or an Island,” emphasized Turkey’s divided geography and global identity. Over 300 high school students, chaperones, and teachers, sponsored by local Rotary Clubs throughout Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, gathered at the Senator John Heinz History Center to discuss Turkey’s contemporary challenges. Before the event, attendees received a detailed background paper explaining Turkey’s history, the establishment of the Turkish republic, and its economic, domestic, and foreign policies to prepare them for the discussion.
Mayor-elect Bill Peduto started the day by sharing his personal experience visiting Gaziantep, Pittsburgh’s sister city located in southeastern Turkey. Two moderated discussions followed focusing on domestic and foreign policy challenges, and Turkey’s relations with its neighbors. One panelist, Dr. Gönül Tol of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies, talked specifically about Gaziantep. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world, and its proximity to Syria has recently made it a haven for refugees escaping Syria’s civil conflict. All panelists pointed to border security, Turkey’s attempt at EU membership, internal ethnic conflict, and Turks emigrating out of the country as significant issues facing Turkey today.
The students were also given a foreign policy scenario set six months into the future (May 2014), which dealt with Turkey’s conflict with the PKK and improved rights for the Kurdish minority. Each group had to evaluate the scenario from the perspective of a key international, regional or domestic actor, and make policy recommendations accordingly. The range of actors impacted by the conflict, including the European Union, the Northern Iraqi Kurdistan Regional government, and various media outlets, brought together the theme of Turkey’s role as both a bridge and an island in the international community.
You can download this year’s background paper on Turkey, here, for a more in depth look at Turkish history and politics. Additionally, if you are interested in reading about more recent events impacting Turkey, check out the World Affairs Institute blog. This resource provides more up-to-date news affecting Turkey leading up to the World Affairs Institute on November 7.
By: Ciara O’Connor, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern
On Wednesday of this week, young people across the globe came together for Global Dignity Day, a worldwide conversation in promotion of dignity-based leadership. The event was first developed in 2008, and each year the program reaches over 350,000 students from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. The idea is to create a platform for young people to connect with their peers to share stories and to collectively build a better world.
This year, Pittsburgh put their own spin on Global Dignity Day! On October 16, students gathered at Barrett Elementary School in Homestead to discuss the topics of dignity and respect with their peers. Over 1,300 students in grades 3-6, across 18 schools in southwestern Pennsylvania, including one school in Northern Ireland, participated in a videoconference and live webcast moderated by Ken Rice, KDKA-TV news anchor. The students were led in conversation by special guest Charlie Batch, former Steelers quarterback. Mr Batch also serves as the national spokesperson for UPMC’s Dignity and Respect Campaign for Youth. Students shared stories on how bullying has impacted their lives, and discussed ways their schools have implemented more respectful practices. The program was coordinated in partnership with AIU3, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, the Best of the Batch Foundation, South Fayette School District, Tuscarora Intermediate Unit, UPMC, Vibrant Pittsburgh, and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh.
Students at Barrett Elementary School
Pose for a Picture with Charlie Batch on Global Dignity Day
The international dignity movement, was created by Global Dignity, a non-political, independent organization first established in 2006 by Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Operation HOPE founder John Hope Bryant, and Professor Pekka Himanen. Global Dignity advocates five key dignity principles:
- Every human being has a right to lead a dignified life.
- A dignified life means an opportunity to fulfill one’s potential, which is based on having a humane level of health care, education, income, and security.
- Dignity means having the freedom to make decisions on one’s life and to be met with respect for this right.
- Dignity should be the basic guiding principles for all actions.
- Ultimately, our own dignity is interdependent with the dignity of others.
If you are interested in bringing a Global Dignity Day celebration to your school or community, the Global Dignity website offers a variety of teaching tools for educators. Resources include teaching guides, instructional videos and promotional materials.
By Ciara O’Connor, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern
We can all remember the times we discussed current events as part of our social studies classes in high school. I have fond memories of cutting out newspaper articles and writing summaries on white-lined paper. As a student, I enjoyed being called on by a teacher to give a summary of the topics being taught. Fast forward a couple decades; I am now on the other side of that desk providing students with the same memorable experiences.
Over the last two years, my students have had the unique opportunity to discuss current events with their international peers through videoconferencing programs offered by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. Just several weeks ago, our school [Cornell High School] had the honor of hosting an event with Reza Aslan, bestselling author and scholar. Using a talk show platform designed and produced by the class, students led the conversation with Mr. Aslan.
Many social studies teachers in the region may already be familiar with the videoconferencing programs provided by the Council each year. Included in this repertoire is a unique type of videoconference heavily focused on collaboration: The International Youth Forum.
The International Youth Forum is a series of videoconferences in which the same students participate several times throughout the school year. Dr. Steven Sokol, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council, moderates the fora, which are focused on topics selected by the students. Last year, the topics were chosen from among the One Young World themes. What I found so interesting was watching my students talk with their peers internationally about something rather broad, such as education or human rights, and realizing that they have many more common attributes than differences.
One of the sessions that stood out most to me, covered the topic of Human Rights. Students in a South African school presented about the rights of women and human trafficking. Following the discussion, my students began exploring the issue of human trafficking in our own region and were shocked to find it is widespread in the United States. This led to a complex discussion of who is responsible for putting an end to human trafficking. Ultimately, my students agreed that although they could try to point the finger at criminals or government, in the end, we are all culpable.
I am really excited about this year’s International Youth Forum, which will focus on Global Trends using Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, a report published by the National Intelligence Council, as inspiration. Students will analyze the trends identified in the report, and discuss the implications on their lives with their peers from around the region and the world. I cannot imagine a better way to help prepare our students for their future.
The 2013-2014 International Youth Forum will kick off on October 30, 2013 with a presentation and discussion featuring Mr. Tom Sanderson, Co-Director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. To register for this videoconference and the rest of the International Youth Fora, see our website.
By Kris Hupp, 21st Century Teaching & Learning Coach at Cornell High School