An open letter to our world leaders
Respected Leaders of the General Assembly,
I come imploring you to wake up. Wake up to how you can help your own nations and your neighbors in a world that has lost its way. A world that thinks focusing inward will help beat our competition and protect our intellectual property. This world often raises a fist or harsh word before extending the hand or olive branch.
As a Sri Lankan-born proud American, I was an immigrant to the United States. I landed in a city you might not expect for an island girl — Edina, Minnesota. All my life, I’ve been the other. Whether because of my skin color or because my favorite food was curry instead of burgers, I’ve learned to know what I like and learn more through what I know. You might say I grew up in a Western world with doses of Eastern philosophy stirred in to keep things balanced. This very idea rings true in modern medicine as wellness gets its day in the sun, combining high-tech options with Eastern holism. One of the best parts of the United States is our democratic tradition. Modeled in other lands but now threatened on our own soil and in danger in some of your nations as well.
Communication itself and all modes of communication developed over the centuries are heralded as ways to bridge divides. Facebook users number the population total of many countries combined. But do these modern communication tools really foster deeper understanding, openness, and love for the other? My love of communication led me to a television career as a news reporter and talk show host. That life brought exposure to the farm fields of North Dakota, the hog farms of Iowa, the inner workings of government in Tennessee, the growing IT landscape in Minnesota, and the often-tough streets of Detroit.
Each of these locations and their surroundings gifted me with understanding staunch differences and respecting subtle nuances. We are stronger when we share this diversity with others and invite them to understand and use their talents with us. As a business owner and media commentator for nearly twelve years, I must create my own fruits out of my labor and leverage resources in the marketplace. I could not do this alone and would be nowhere without respect for other people’s talents, other companies’ methods, and countless words of advice from men and women with far different backgrounds and insight than mine.
Respect the “Other”
When difference gets studied and interpreted for broader purposes, the entire community benefits. When those interpretations are shared freely, even bigger results emerge. Global solutions become commonplace. These wins could lead to the reduction of hunger and poverty or the creation of new spaces for the humanities. Healthy competition, like the race to the moon, also creates stronger technologies that benefit more than the nations who discovered them. As you leave these historic halls and return to your lands, you will be greeted by many who wonder why you bother to connect with people not like you. They wonder why you don’t focus all your attention on enriching your own lives. Psychologists and financial types agree that more money rarely means more happiness.
So consider opening dialogue with people different from you to understand their meaning of happiness. We are not islands. Knowledge is not siloed. We see daily examples of the rapid growth of actual information and ways that information is used for the common good as well as lasered for evil purposes. What kind of narrative do you want for yourself and for your people? Will you share what you know with others? Will you cross the street, the ocean, the intellectual divide to truly listen to the teachings of those who know different things from you? Can your neighbor think differently about the world around you and be labeled differing in opinion versus wrong or evil?
Stand proud with an open posture
Remember, you possess a powerful gift. A gift that becomes more powerful when shared. That gift basket is made up of your unique skills and talents. No one shares your exact gifts. No one can take them from you. If you really understand your talents and expertise and use them to grow your differentiation — both as a people and as a nation — you will bring success to your world. You can inspire with your gifts or use them for harm. It is your choice individually, as organizations, and even as nations, to thrive or dive. If you grow suspicious of others and do not share expertise in an honest way, the world itself can count the days ‘til doom.
When each of your people identifies his or her talents, and your community nurtures and celebrates those people, they lay the groundwork that leads to big results. Multiply that across nations and the world. We have a recipe for world peace within our grasp. No matter how large or small your backyard, doesn’t that sound better than turning inward and protecting your turf? I leave you with words from epic thinker Confucius: “Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men (and women) from beasts?”
Thank you distinguished world leaders for the opportunity to help awaken your sense of your bigger selves.
Roshini Rajkumar, a MNBIZ (Real) Power 50 honoree, is a presence engineer and host of News & Views with Roshini Rajkumar on WCCO Radio. She is an analyst for media outlets around the country, a commentator on KSTP-TV and KARE-TV, and author of Communicate That!