On this eighth celebration of Interdependence Day, let me say how pleased I am to be here in Scranton to welcome you all, to thank you for your dedication to interdependence, and to urge you to become, if you are not there now, the active citizens beyond borders that the world so desperately needs.
Every day we must be prepared to challenge the messengers of hate and intolerance that we encounter in our own communities, in our nation and in the world. We must be soldiers of peace, ambassadors of international, intercultural and interfaith understanding. Why? Because the revolution in information and communication technologies give us voice—our voices can be heard and read all over the world. Let’s use the power that we have to make the world a better place for all its people. I firmly believe that interdependence, which is our reality, must be the guiding principle for our ideas and actions in the 21st century. We still live in a world that is fraught with conflict, with an unacceptable gap between rich and poor, with racial and ethnic intolerance and xenophobia on the rise, and, in general, an anxiety about the future. It would be unseemly of me not to refer, in this regard, to the rise in Islamaphobia in our nation, indeed throughout the Western world. It is particularly unacceptable for us as Americans, in this land of liberty, the land of immigrants, to play into this phobia. I ask all of us to examine our own thinking in the context of who we are as a nation that has held the promise, from the beginning, of liberty and justice for all. Time to think—perhaps to dream—perhaps to speak and act about the future. We have the right—and the skills to choose the future. Do we have the will? I think we do.
Though our problems sometimes overshadow and outshine our accomplishments, we need to set time aside to reflect on what we do on behalf of each other, and what we hope to do in the future. If we acknowledge the necessity for diversity, the reality of our interconnectedness, the benefits of the promise of liberty and justice for all,–if we give credence and respect to all the above, perhaps we will do better this year than we did last—in fostering prosperity and the public good.
Today’s gathering is especially exciting because it reflects both the global and the local iterations of interdependence. Our keynote speaker will speak about citizens without borders and has spent a good part of her professional and personal life working creatively and boldly toward a more peaceful and humane world.
At the local level, we will be honoring Bob D’Alessandri, who has just about defied the law of gravity by lifting off an enlightened and enlightening institution in Scranton—one that is imbued with the spirit and the culture of interdependence. The Commonwealth Medical College seemed like an impossible dream to some of us. But it is a reality. Let us use it as a beacon of light on our path to the future.
For now, let me present a friend and colleague of long standing who walks the walk of interdependence every day. A thinker and an activist, she has been informed and inspired by Poland’s pioneering and successful effort toward democratization, the Solidarity Movement, and by the wisdom of one of its founders, Adam Michnik. Tonight’s speaker, I am confident, will infect you with her very contagious enthusiasm for constructive change in this world. Please welcome Elzbieta Matynia, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Democratic Studies at the New School for Social Research—who, by the way, leaves tomorrow for Johannesburg, South Africa, where she will do research and teaching as a Fulbright Scholar this academic year.