The US as a member of the global community of nations:
How does our self-understanding shape the role we play?

Activists, thinkers, officials, businesspeople, and many others around the world have brought attention to what appears to be a unique period of vulnerability in the collective life of humankind. The challenges we face include the environmental crisis; disparities in wealth and opportunity that oppress millions; conflict and violence; terrorism; the threat of nuclear war; cyber warfare; digital intelligence, the resurgence of virulent forms of prejudice and bigotry; the re-emergence of authoritarian regimes; global pandemics and more. The challenges we face also arise from a widespread sense of hopelessness among emerging generations of youth, apathy and disengagement among large numbers of the world’s citizens, the lack of a sense of meaning and purpose, and an eroding confidence in our collective future.  Moreover, attitudes that foster division, that fail to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all peoples, regardless of nationality, race, or other immutable characteristics, continue to block our collective ability to solve global crises. This at a time when human creativity and innovation have placed at our disposal the capacity to address many problems that for millennia were beyond the reach of human understanding. Humankind appears to be facing challenges that can only be addressed by shifting the frame of reference to a recognition of our global interdependence and the potential for shared well-being.  Indeed, to move beyond the current situation, imagination is required to create new ways of living and flourishing rooted in a new vision of human nature and society—a vision based on collaboration, conciliation, and the recognition that all peoples share a common destiny. 

The role of the United States in the unfolding history of the planet is complex. While positive contributions have been made, it is harder, even within the US, to maintain a belief in American exceptionalism – the idea that the US is uniquely positioned by its ideals, history, and capacity to lead the world toward democracy, liberty, and prosperity. Challenges to the idea of American exceptionalism include our impact on climate change and other environmental degradation; the spread of exploitative capitalist enterprises, mechanisms of wealth concentration and vulnerability to economic instability; destabilizing military interventions; and more. This is not to deny all the good faith efforts many Americans have advanced to promote global well-being, only to take stock as global crises intensify. It is also not to deny the outsized impact the US has on the course of global history, which speaks to a responsibility and potential to make a distinctive and noble contribution. Aside from our economic and political influence, it also seems relevant to note the great diversity of our peoples – who represent a microcosm of the planet – and the bitter legacy of oppression that we ourselves struggle with. These are among the salient elements of the frame through which we might view our country’s global presence.

This framing could be explored in many ways. Here, we invite you to focus on how the internal life of our nation shapes our possibilities for fulling a role as a healthy, positive member of the family of nations. How could overcoming division within the U.S. help us better contribute to the complex processes that will address climate change, war and the other threats to our human family? How would working together with the U.S. to overcome oppression, poverty, inequality, and violence within our borders allow us to better contribute to addressing problems internationally? How would recognizing our shared fate as a nation, help us to respond to the shared fate of the planet? How would a shared vision of a future beyond the transgression and trauma of our national history help us contribute to a global transition to a more peaceful and just social order? 

Final question:

Select an issue or area that you are interested in addressing at the global level and think about the following question in that context: What positive things have we learned as a diverse society so far that could help the US contribute to addressing problems that need to be solved at the global level?