I remember vividly the day One World was born. I was studying at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) sitting in a leadership class taught by Professor Ron Heifetz when my thoughts began to drift to thinking what would I do once I graduated from KSG after having spent all of that money on my mid-career program. I then looked to my left and noticed that the student sitting next to me was from Japan. I then looked to my right and realized that the student sitting next to me was from Germany. I then realized with horror that if this thought had occurred about 50 years earlier, my goal in life would have been to murder the human beings on either side of me.
I then got to thinking how strange it was that today we are friends and colleagues and some 50 years ago sworn enemies bound and determined to murder one another. I resolved at that point that when I had the chance I would look to set up an organization dedicated to achieving peace and understanding amongst human beings. An organization dedicated to creating the conditions of peace prevalent in that classroom as opposed to the environment of war some 50 years previous. In short I decided I wanted to create an organization where we could all see ourselves as one in this world – One World.
I began to read on this topic and was surprised to find a rich historical body of writing on this subject which I came to learn was encapsulated by cosmopolitan thinking.
“The word ‘cosmopolitan’, which derives from the Greek word kosmopolitês (‘citizen of the world’), has been used to describe a wide variety of important views in moral and socio-political philosophy. The nebulous core shared by all cosmopolitan views is the idea that all human beings, regardless of their political affiliation, do (or at least can) belong to a single community, and that this community should be cultivated.” Stanford University Press.
I later discovered in reading the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin that he had had a similar project in mind way back in 1731.
“That few in Public Affairs act from a mere View of the Good of their Country, whatever they may pretend; and tho’ their Actings bring real Good to their Country, yet Men primarily considered their own and their Country’s Interest was united, and did not act from a Principle of Benevolence.
That fewer still in public Affairs act with a view to the Good of Mankind.
There seems to me at present to be great Occasion for raising a united Party of Virtue, by forming the Virtuous and good Men of all Nations into a regular Body, to be govern’d by suitable good and wise Rules, which good and wise Men may probably be more unanimous to their Obedience to, than common People are to common Laws.
I at present think, that whoever attempts this aright, and is well qualified, cannot fail of pleasing God & of meeting with Success.” From Ben Franklin’s Autobiography.
Although Franklin never did get around to starting his Unity Party of Virtue I noticed that in today’s world there are a number service organizations that have started small and gained global scale. I had some involvement with two such organizations Rotary and Junior Achievement. Both started with an idea and have now grown to become worldwide organizations with a presence in about 100 countries each.
At the end of 2006, I finally stopped thinking about creating a One World club and decided to found the organization making a foundational grant myself. With a nod of the head to Mr. Franklin I named the organization “One World United and Virtuous”.
I spent much of 2007, working with two friends Peyman Attari and Charles Rosenberg maturing the idea of what One World should be and conducting more research.
In 2008 we were joined by our current Executive Director, Jack Zaccara a science teacher for 32 years before he decided to dedicate himself full time to diversity training following the events of September 11, 2001.
By 2008 we felt sufficiently confident that we launched our first “study circle” educational activities using a model adapted from the Study Circles Resource Center, a project of the Topsfield Foundation. Sitting around a kitchen table we retrace cosmopolitan thinking over the years as well as look at contemporary global thinkers. We discuss global issues confronting humanity using in some instances cases studies using the HBS model.
Two years ago we launched our first school program and have found that 4th graders often understand the One World approach better than we do.
We also have a speaker series where we were thrilled to have Kwame Appiah come speak to our group as has Coleman McCarthy and Lt Colonel Mark Rosen recently returned from Afghanistan.
We are young, organic organization looking to grow one global citizen one conversation at a time.
The three things that have most surprised me four years into this effort are:
- The hunger people have for quiet, respectful conversation relating to global human issues of import.
- The realization that we are the realists. It is unreal to think that nuclear weapons will proliferate without ever being used. That is fantasyland. The notion that single nations can unilaterally solve global problems at the national level on an increasingly interconnected planet is at best quaint and at worst dangerously naïve.
- How prevalent serious cosmopolitan thinking is in both history and today. When we first started this effort One World seemed pretty far out there on the reality curve. I have been surprised to see how mainstream this kind of thinking has become.
So please come join us and share your ideas and share your thinking. We are all ears.