By Cara McCarthy
At the Fall 2020 Lyceum lecture, Monday, Sept. 14 Professor Alexander (Sandy) Hartwiger presented his research on what it means to be a global citizen.
The lecture, sponsored by CELTSS, was originally scheduled for the Spring 2020 semester, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hartwiger, a member of the English department, used his own experience, the experiences of those with whom he met along his travels, and research to answer the question: “What is a global citizen?”
Hartwiger began the talk by telling the story of a young man who he met during his time in Israel.
Asel Asleh was only 17 years old when he was “chased by soldiers, beaten, and shot in the neck” by Isreali soldiers while observing a protest, according to Hartwiger.
He went on to tell the audience Asleh was fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, and English and could change which language he was speaking “as seamlessly as he moved between groups.”
To Hartwiger, Asleh “embodied the spirit of what it means to be a global citizen,” because he “dared to use his positioning and experience as a way to teach the world how to make meaningful and deep connections that transcended indifference,” Hartwiger said.
He also told the audience a little bit about how he came across the idea to research the ideology of being a global citizen.
After being raised in Virginia by two parents, neither of whom owned passports – Hartwiger attended Appalachian State University.
Only eight months of working in the corporate world is what it took for Hartwiger to ditch the suit, grow his hair long again, and become a teacher. He would then go on to teach in schools in India, Hong Kong, and Lebanon.
He also took much of his talk to go through several mission statements surrounding global citizenship in higher education – including Framingham State’s.
The University’s mission statement reads, “A Framingham State University education cultivates thoughtful, responsible local and global citizens, prepares students for a career, and positions them for success.”
Hartwiger deems this definition of global citizen to be too broad, as it only states that in order to be a global citizen, they must be “a conscientious, non-local citizen.”
Drake University’s mission statement claims that “individuals must be able to succeed in different cultural contexts and see their own culture from other points of view,” according to Hartwiger.
However, he also said that privilege plays a big role in determining who gets to be a global citizen.
“White, male, wealthy, and western educated as global leaders, whose very position furthers exploitative, economic, and political policies,” said Hartwiger. “These programs provide the expertise and skill sets that enable certain participants to quickly join the transnational capitalist class maintaining positions of power and influence.”
In Hartwiger’s words, “Citizenship is still a contested category, leveraged for political purposes, and emerging from xenophobia.”
He used the controversy surrounding the true birthplace of President Obama, and most recently the same question being raised about Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
He concluded his talk by adding an addendum covering the idea of being a global citizen through the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing Black Lives Matter movement.
Hartwiger said after witnessing the global response surrounding the pandemic, it reveals “a world incapable of responding to global threats.” He added he is “shockingly disappointed with the lack of cooperation across nations.”
He also cited the trend of assigning blame, specifically due to President Donald Trump calling the COVID-19 virus “the China Virus.”
“At its core, this demonstrates how far we are from understanding ourselves as part of a community,” Hartwiger said.
On the other side of the spectrum, he discussed the global community that has been formed surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement, citing the spread of protests and the worldwide movement this summer protesting the injustices endured by Black people all across the globe.
Hartwiger said, “The continued fight to end oppression in one place has an impact on the other.”