Sometimes you feel goosebumps as you listen to some great speeches and get inspired beyond your imagination.
I did have one such moment as I listened to H.E. Sherig Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk capture the entire audience of 300+ international participants at the 2nd International Conference for Global Citizenship Education (GCED) at Seoul, Republic of Korea on 14th September 2017. He was giving the closing remarks. In the audience four Bhutanese felt pride in our hearts!
With due respect to H.E., I would like to share the script of his speech. But without the passion of his spoken words, this script will not do justice to the intended meaning.
“On February 14th, 1990 the space shuttle Voyager completed its mission and was leaving the solar system. The astronomer and author Carl Sagan requested NASA to turn its camera around and take one last photograph of the planet earth. The camera turned around and from a distance of 6 billion KMs the last photograph was taken. The photograph is the famous – ‘Pale Blue Dot’ an image of our planet – the mother earth.
Carl Sagan later said about the ‘Pale Blue Dot’:
Look again at that dot
That’s here, that’s home, that’s us.
On it everyone you love,
Everyone you know,
Everyone you ever heard of,
Every human being that ever was
Live out their lives.
Our aggregate joy and suffering
The thousands of confident religions,
Ideologies and economic doctrines,
Every hunter and forager,
Every hero and coward,
Every creator and destroyer of civilization,
Every king and peasant,
Every young couple in love,
Every mother and father,
The hopeful child,
The inventor and the explorer,
Every teacher of morals,
Every corrupt politician,
Every super star
And every supreme leader,
Every saint and sinner,
In the history of our species
Lived on this mote of dust
Suspended in a beam of sunlight.
Ladies and gentlemen.
I come from a very tiny country – Bhutan, which is yet again a dot on that ‘pale blue dot’.
Mine is a country high up in the Himalayas guarded by the mighty glacial Mountains. Landlocked and thickly forested, we chose to remain isolated from the rest of the world most part of our history. Only in 1960s we shed off the self-imposed isolation. The first motor vehicles roared into the country in 1970. Television beamed into our living rooms only in 1999 making Bhutan the last country on the face of the earth to be connected to television.
Today, if there is any country in the world that is immune to the world events – not being affected by what’s happening in the rest of the world, it should be Bhutan. But Bhutan is as integrated into the world affairs as any other country.
Bhutan has its own share of suffering due to the actions that it is not responsible for.
Although Bhutan is a carbon negative country and therefore has no carbon contribution to the global warming, its glaciers are melting rapidly. In fact we have experienced disastrous glacier lake outburst causing floods in the valleys downstream. We have around 2000 glacier lakes which are in constant threat of lake outburst.
I use this example simply to assert that no country in the world is free of the impact of actions or inactions of other countries. We live in a deeply integrated world.
During the two-day conference, we have affirmed that the forces of globalization have changed our world fundamentally.
As a global society, we are endowed today with economic prosperity, technological advancement and the expertise and intelligence. We have never been as prosperous as we are today. We have never been as intelligent as we are today. We have never been as technologically advanced as we are today.
Today we have the resources, the tools and the intelligence to solve any problems that we face as one humanity.
Yet our world is a troubled world.
We are at constant threat of financial and economic collapse. Terrorism endanger life of every person on the earth. Weapons of mass destruction are proliferating. Global warming is increasing every year threatening to eradicate all life forms on our planet. Political and religious conflicts kills thousands every year. Food and water is becoming more scarce by the years. 22000 children die every day due to starvation. About a million people commit suicide every year – that’s more than the entire population of my country.
Surely, the call of the hour is a new way of thinking. To perceive the problem in their complex totality. To grasp them in their global cause and effect. To invoke the power of love, of solidarity, of empathy and of compassion. Importantly, to take stewardship of this one planet.
During the two day conference, we have come to assert yet again that this new way of thinking can be brought about only through the Global Citizenship Education.
Global citizenship education should call for empathy and compassion among all people of the world; nurture solidarity and collaboration in political leadership across nations, call for understanding and tolerance in religious leadership, promote responsibility and accountability in businesses.
Global citizenship education should above all empower our youth to take stewardship of our planet.
We discuss the many challenges, constraints and limitations that GCED confronted. The conference identified challenges of finances, of policies, of capacities, of support and many more. Yet, I see opportunity. The opportunity to gain political will. To me the challenges are not really lack of finances or policies or capacities. The real challenge is the lack of political will.
With SDG providing the focus of education on GCED, the GCED practices now gaining momentum, and with the commitment of GCED experts like you working hard to spread GCED, the GCED movement will turn to political commitment.
In Bhutan, we believe that all living beings are interconnected. The trees, the dogs, the birds, the flower, every human beings, our neighbors, the stranger on the street, even our enemies are all connected to one another through our several lives in the past, present and future.
As we go to bed in the night and as we wake up in the morning, we say one prayer. That prayer is:
“Every living being has been my parents in the past lives, every living being will be my parents in the future lives. To all my parents may you be liberated of negative emotions of hatred, ignorance, jealousy and anger and be blessed with positive emotions of compassion, tolerance, love and wisdom”.
With this Bhutanese prayer and wish, May all of us realize that we are together in this ‘Pale Blue Dot’