Recent tragic events in Charlottesville, Barcelona and Turku once again remind us that our world today is more divided, more polarized and less civil than at any time since the 1960’s. Increasingly, many of us seem to define ourselves by what we are against and whom we disagree with. We tend to associate with those who are like “us” and who share our disdain for those “others.” We agree that “they” are not just wrong about ideas or issues…they are the enemy deserving of being personally demeaned and insulted.
In its ultimate form this kind of bigoted and dehumanizing thinking has led some to justify the worst kind of violence, whether that was among the factions in Syria, at a market in Paris, the airport in Brussels, a nightclub in Orlando, a church in Charleston, a baseball field in Washington or these most recent events.
How should we respond? The temptation is to join the chorus of those shouting about what they are against and who they hate. The more difficult, yet more productive, path is to state clearly what we are for and then act to bring about positive social change.
So, what are you for? The response to that question generated the idea for Up with People a half century ago, and again today we are all being called to take a stand for something. Here is where Up with People stands.
While our world is not getting smaller or more diverse, global populations are becoming closer and more interconnected with our differences more apparent than ever before. It is no longer an option just to build higher walls and stronger fences to keep us separated. We must learn to live with and find common ground with those we see as different. The world of tomorrow will not be built only with people like us regardless of how we define “us.”
Using the power of music, education and service Up with People stands for:
Increasing understanding, respect and dignity for all – We work to overcome bigotry and build trust by embracing our diversity and breaking down real and perceived barriers of culture, race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation and economic disparity.
Fostering inclusive communities – Through our travels we collaborate with each community we visit and work together with residents who are addressing local issues and forming community connections that enhance compassion and trust.
Empowering youth to be positive change agents – We strive to help youth throughout the world become more aware of global and local issues, realize their individual capacity and inspire them to take personal action for positive change in their communities, nations and world.
Building an international network of global citizens – Wherever we travel or our music is heard, we seek to inspire and encourage those who yearn for a more peaceful world, respect cultural differences and act to build trust.
In a very real way, we must all become global citizens now. That does not mean giving up our love of our own country, religion, values or way of life, but the more we interact with diverse people the more we realize that there are many “right ways” to be human, to live, to love, to worship…and that by understanding and acting on that reality we can join together to help shape a more peaceful world today and a more hopeful future for our children and grandchildren.
That is our view. That is where we stand. That is what we are for.