Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day and the Rainbow

Having had the FBI determine I'm not a criminal, and with Treaty Permit in hand, I symbolically depart the USA today for the big adventure. Emotions are varied.  I'm firm in the knowledge that my success is greatly based upon the friends, family and colleagues who support my passions and dreams.  The failures, however, are mine to own. 

In preparation for the trip, I've just completed Thompson's A History of South Africa, which I highly recommend to anyone who has an interest in the formation and foundation of this country.  Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu first used the term "rainbow nation" in 1994 after the end of apartheid and South Africa's first democratic election.  The term reflects the vast diversity within South Africa  to include race, religion, and language.  When applying for the Fulbright, I was immediately drawn to this country that truly is emerging in their quest for peace and democracy.  To arrive in this new and present era, the people of South Africa have undergone enormous struggles.  In many ways, South Africans are much more diverse than many other countries who are torn by war and strife.  Yet, somehow, immense hurdles have been overcome----and overcome quite recently.  I am eager to witness the dynamics of this quickly changing democracy.  I can't help but consider the few decades following the creation of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  We, too, were an "emerging democracy" faced with numerous hurdles.  Our hurdles, of course, are every-evolving.  While diversity often divides our country, the melting pot we've become is one of America's greatest strengths.  I have great hope that South Africa will become a mirror for the world to reflect what is possible when we embrace and find strength in our differences.

With that said, I depart on this 4th of July knowing that I will undergo significant changes throughout the next year.  Every Fulbrighter I've spoken with to date has affirmed that a year abroad has altered them in some fashion.  I enthusiastically anticipate the reduction of my comfort zone.  I truly have no idea what awaits me, but I will be the better for the experience.  And I hope these experiences make my footprint on the world better for having taken this adventure.