“If you visit American city
You will find it very pretty
Just two things of which you must beware,
Don’t drink the water and don’t breathe the air.”
I first heard this song by Tom Lehrer 30 years ago. Sometimes I think we have made great progress since then. Sometimes I do not. Recently, I was torn between these two feelings in the space of an hour.
I headed out to Silverdale, Washington last week to see what a local Global Citizen Corps (GCC) group was up to on this cold Sunday morning. I heard they were doing something about clean water and climate change, and I had a gift to bring them from their counterparts in Iraq.
As I waited in a lovely waterfront park, I gazed out to the windy sea and saw some surprising signage. Tom Lehrer’s song immediately revved up in my head. Just moments later, the song was interrupted and replaced by a loud and enthusiastic chanting coming from a crowd of 40 youth marching down the street.
They were marching the two miles from Island Lake to Puget Sound — from one polluted water hole to another — calling attention to World Water Day, as well as their efforts to raise money for purchasing incredibly low-cost water filters for families in Ethiopia. They ended their march on top of a giant map of the world next to the sea, and stood in solidarity next to the eight countries where other GCC leaders were taking similar actions this week.
These young leaders all knew that, if we do want to drink the water and breathe the air, it is going to take all of us across the globe — working together — to make it happen.
I offered them two gifts as we stood there on top of the world: a commemorative tea plate Iraqi youth asked me to bring to U.S. youth leaders, and news that the Iraqi GCC leaders had just planted 1,300 trees and organized 2,000 people to call attention to climate change.
I left the park a little chilled, but at least Tom Lehrer’s song was no longer rattling around in my head.
Greg Tuke teaches and travels internationally, working with university faculty in India, Indonesia and the MIddle East, sharing strategies for implementing international collaborations within course work. This blog chronicles key experiences and insights about those experiences. All opinions expressed are mine, and represent no other institutional affiliation.