Essay Contest 2009 "Visions for a Better World" - 2nd Prize
Betty Liu, High Technology High School
With the constant distractions emerging from school, work, social events, relationships, and personal hobbies governing our lives, we often get caught up in the intricate web of our daily routines. We seldom stop for even the briefest moment to take a deep breath and reflect upon the discrepancies that are occurring outside the boundaries of our everyday lives. For a seemingly infinite amount of reasons, a large portion of us do almost nothing to help resolve the ongoing crises infiltrating our world. The truth is, most of us are quite aware of the current affairs circulating our globe. The media does a relatively proficient job in keeping us informed of unprecedented situations developing worldwide. Spotted regularly are “Go green” advertisements, emphasizing the importance of conserving fuel and energy, and orphan adoption billboards instructing its viewers to save a third-world child from poverty, hunger, and disease. Unfortunately, many will acknowledge the troubles and sufferings evolving around us only to disregard them in the end. A common misconception is that these people do not care. I, however, strongly disagree. It is not that they do not care; most people ignore our current global issues simply because they do not understand. Ultimately, knowing is only half the battle. Understanding and consequently caring is the other half.
As I mentioned earlier, the media sufficiently keeps its audience updated on what issues this world is facing. It fails, however, in making most of its viewers adequately understand why these problems are happening, how these issues affect us, and how we, as citizens of Earth, can successfully resolve these conflicts. In order to do so, we must change public awareness into public understanding. For example, if the media were to explain to its watchers the why and how of the worldwide conflicts, people would be begin to realize the importance of aiding the world. A more diverse example consists of schools and libraries hosting assemblies or discussions that explain the causes and effects of current world issues. The more effort we put in holding wide, public sessions that provide background information on international crises and clarifying frequent misunderstandings, the more effort our viewers will put back into saving our world. Besides increasing their understanding, students and adults will be given an opportunity to unite their vision together and share ideas on how to resolve a certain problem. Ideally, they will find the most beneficial path to harmony both as an individual and as human society functioning as a whole.
Perhaps the two most important factors in conveying our visions are the ability to convince others to do something because they can make a difference and the ability to communicate in an efficient manner. In the first case, joining forces is one ideal way to accomplish an otherwise formidable task. It may seem like a daunting task for a single individual to change this world, but when we multiply our efforts, we can perform tremendous capabilities. With regards to the second case, the advent of technology and its revolutionary speed and effectiveness has made our lives significantly easier in communication. In our age and day, it is possible to transmit messages with virtually everyone around the globe in just milliseconds. By mastering these two factors, we can take one giant leap towards making a difference and communicating to others rapidly.
In the past, and even still today, the most common approach to educating others about our current global issues was to inform adults. Adults are predominantly thought of as the ones who can truly influence the world because they are the ones who have been exposed to Earth’s surroundings the longest and therefore, are surely the only ones who can understand the current events revolving around us. But by making these assumptions, we often overlook the simple, important fact of where the foundations of adulthood lie in: youth. Childhood is a precious seed of life; every one of our actions, our thoughts, and our values has sprouted from this origin. We forget that children, not just adults, need to be informed of global crises.
To some extent, people think that young children do not and can not entirely comprehend the difficulties we are facing today. It is true; but while they may not see certain aspects of a main idea, adolescents are known for quickly grasping general concepts. Furthermore, young children, especially those in elementary school, are instinctively curious about the forces surrounding us. Consequently, their eagerness to acquire information will greatly speed up their learning process. While it is undeniable that children struggle to fathom the world’s intricate conflicts, they can easily associate their feelings to these problems and make sense that something needs to be solved. If these young children grow up recognizing the importance of these issues and relating their childhood feelings towards these crises, they will unquestionably develop a sense of desire to help the world.
Besides educating the young, we must teach those who lack proper discernment of the obstacles that conflict humanity. After all, understanding a situation can greatly affect one’s general interest. Just a few months ago, I conducted an informal experiment among my peers to test if, indeed, comprehension affects concernment. First, I selected fifteen candidates who I felt were most suitable for this survey and had little or no previous knowledge about the human trafficking status in China. During my experiment, I explained how reports of rapid economic development along China’s east coast have resulted in a massive internal migration, creating opportunities for traffickers to kidnap and sell women and children. I described how these helpless people were coerced into prostitution or forced labor, unable to escape their misfortune. I went on, reading tragic memoirs written by distraught parents whose children had haplessly been kidnapped by criminals. Following my presentation, I carefully peered into the faces of my audience to observe their reactions. I immediately noticed the shock and heartbroken expressions scrawled across each individual’s face. Several had even began to tear up. I realized, then and there, that the extraordinary impact of my speech had somehow spiritually united us. We were no longer high school students; no longer “the jock”, “the brainiac”, or “the queen bee”. In essence, we all forgot, for a moment, about the current superficial realm we all lived in. Instead, we remembered. We remembered we were human beings. And because of this, we were able to recognize the agony belonging to another of our kind and relate ourselves to those in suffering. We cared.
After our brief period of human unification and reflection, I proceeded to take the final step in my experiment. I questioned each subject, “On a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest and five being how you felt before this presentation, how motivated are you to do something about this conflict? Please answer honestly.” To my enthusiasm, my subjects gave me an average rating of nine, implying that an increased understanding is, indeed, related to an increase in concern. If this experiment has some truth to it and mimics the reactions we would actually encounter in the real world, then we certainly have a qualified shot at resolving our problems by following similar procedures to those of my investigation.
As for what happened after my life-changing experiment, I decided to run for president of Key Club International (KCI), the sole service leadership program of my high school. I wanted to advance my experiment and generate more understanding, as well as concernment, for current global problems in my entire high school community. By leading KCI, I yearned to accomplish my goal. To my greatest appreciation, I successfully obtained the position and am currently in the process of coordinating events that will hopefully expand the knowledge of world issues amongst my peers.
Like the priceless experience I shared with my fellow peers after my experimental presentation, I aspire to make further spiritual breakthroughs with other human beings. From what I have witnessed, awareness and knowledge do much; but apprehension and inspiration do more. In time, humanity will grow stronger. And we will all care.