I feel I need to state from the outset that I am a big fan of President Obama, not necessarily because of his political persuasion but because I admire his calm thoughtful considered temperament and sense of decency.
So when I caught the end of a repeat showing of one of the Obama documentaries on BBC the other day, I was struck by this quote from him at the end of the programme.
“My view of human progress has stayed surprisingly constant throughout my presidency. The world today with all its pain and all its sorrow, is more just, more democratic, more free, more tolerant, healthier, wealthier, better educated, more connected, more empathetic than ever before.
If you didn’t know ahead of time what your social status would be, what your race was, what your gender was or sexual orientation was, what country you were living in, and you asked what moment in history would you like to be born….. you’d choose right now” President Barack Obama.
Ref: Inside Obama’s White House -The Arc of History, BBC 2. First shown 5th April 2016
As someone who has worked in sustainability education for over 20 years this made me think. (It is interesting however that this statement doesn’t include any reference to the natural environment). I seem to spend most of my time involved in projects where the general data trends are not good, whether that be related to global carbon emissions and climate predictions or obesity levels in children or concerns about rising inequality or devastating global species loss. And yet here is the most powerful man in the world reminding us that (unless we knew we were going to be born into privilege) then to have the best chance in life we would want to be born now.
I wonder if young people in our schools feel like that. Do they appreciate the opportunities they have to be healthy; to learn; to flourish and make their mark on the world? Or could it be that President Obama is misguided in his big picture view and that actually life in the 21st century isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be?
The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide us all with the structure to re-imagine or restructure our world for the benefit of everyone and everything. They are a fantastic opportunity for young people to engage in understanding the really complicated systems humans have created and the equally complex natural systems that we depend upon. With this understanding and associated skill development, students can then make their mark in the world in whichever profession / vocation they choose. It may be the best time to be born now, but everyone can and should try to make it even better.
I wrote the first part of this blog the day before the USA election. What a thoroughly depressing experience that has been to follow from this side of the Atlantic. A calm temperament and sense of decency has been sadly lacking in this election contest. So we now know we have a new Republican President, the next few months should be used by teachers and students to investigate what this might mean for their futures and the future of the wider world.
9th November 2016
Education Development Advisor – Sustainability, Durham County Council and co-lead of OASES (Outdoor and Sustainability Education Specialists) a charitable organisation that supports schools and other providers with sustainability, outdoor and global learning opportunities in north east England.