Eileen McFarland (United States) on The Warmth of a Shared Sun

August 21, 2012

When Queen Victoria celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of 1897, it was said that the sun never set on the British Empire. The British Empire included territory on every inhabited continent, and Queen Victoria also used the title, “Empress of India.”
When Elizabeth II celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of 2012, London will simultaneously be hosting the 2012 Summer Olympics. Countries from around the world will participate, including several former British colonies. If any of these contestants feel like getting cozy with her majesty, they might refer to her as “the Queen Mum.” And at some point, it will be nighttime in Britain.

The past 115 years have witnessed a transformation not only in Britain, but more importantly, throughout the world. Countries that were once colonized now host thriving economies. The birth of transnational organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union has deepened the potential of alliances between countries. Even the number of planets that the sun shines on has shifted. (Oh, Pluto. We hardly knew you.)

In a century of such rapid and unprecedented change, how can a game from Ancient Greece remain relevant? Economic and political turmoil is making itself known everywhere from Spain to Syria. Organizations such as the EU may have promised greater international economic cooperation, but the Eurozone crisis now threatens the EU’s very existence. How can we truly create a world of respect, excellence, and friendship?

The secret lies in remembering that we live under a shared sun. The sun which will shine on London’s Olympic Games is the same sun that shines on children playing soccer in Brazilian favelas or doing jumping jacks in Washington, D.C. for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. The sun that will warm the Olympics 2012’s Opening Ceremony is the same sun that will greet Japanese schoolchildren during recess or light the altar at a wedding in New Zealand. In such a world, respecting other cultures is not just about allowing them to flourish or thrive in their own right, although that alone would justify such respect. Rather, it is an investment in our inescapable network of mutuality. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Creating global citizens who understand the interwoven nature of the world’s destiny requires more than blog posts and athletic competitions on TV screens. Rather, it will necessitate an investment in true human connection. We can live out the Olympic values of respect, excellence, and friendship by first acknowledging that building such values is a process, not a neat end-point. It will require community ambassadors and exchange programs with no termination date. In a world of tight budgets and economic uncertainty, such an investment appears difficult. But we must remember that the only answer to scarcity is bounty. As the sun sets on one country, it is rising in another. Only by sharing our own individual lights will we come to see that we all live under a shared sun.
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