Jesup Scott Honors Scholars’ Reflections: “Crossing Boundaries to Create Common Ground.”

Essay by Merna Naji

Most people would define a boundary as a line that delimits an area. In a more figurative sense, however, boundaries are more of a tacit principle that are not always binding. The Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011 proved to have created a deleterious environment for its 127.6 million inhabitants. In the midst of the crisis, however, I was encouraged to see that 102 countries and 14 international organizations had offered assistance to help the people of Japan. While France sent rescue workers and Britain helped clean up debris, it is worth noting that Afghanistan, a country with its own extreme troubles, had offered a helping hand, as well. Moreover, China’s past relations and conflicts with the tsunami-hit country did not stop them from assisting either. This is crossing boundaries on a large scale: countries with different languages, customs, and relations crossing borders to help one in a time of struggle.

Of course, crossing boundaries does not necessarily always have to happen on an international scale, and some boundaries are disappearing, altogether. Some authors, musicians, and artists have chosen to cross the boundaries of an accepted genre of work. Freedom of expression has allowed people to transcend beyond the status quo in order to spread ideas to various audiences. In 1963, Betty Friedan’s novel, The Feminine Mystique sparked the second-wave of the Women’s Movement in the United States. This movement lasted over twenty years and involved tackling the issue of woman’s suffrage. By crossing a boundary, Friedan was able to establish a movement that helped to establish common ground for women. Scientists are forming invisible networks that allow for a greater flow of information across the continents. Many boundaries are meant to be crossed, and there is no doubt in my mind that we are living in a time where we are moving toward creating common ground.

Essay by Nicholas Thanas

The theme, “Crossing Boundaries to Create Common Ground,” could be interpreted in several ways. Ambiguity arises with the word “crossing” because individuals could cross a boundary with varied intentions. One of those ways is with force, with adversity and misery tagging along not far behind. This evokes the dreadful remembrance of Hitler’s Panzers rolling into Poland or Alexander the Great’s ruthless conquest of the known world. Surely, this is not the interpretation that comes to most minds, nor is it the most glaring for me. For most people that phrase would likely conjure up the image of a benevolent, helping-hand reaching into a foreign land, offering caring, understanding, and sympathy. This could be the United Nations offering myriad forms of relief to the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and other natural disasters, or President Jimmy Carter extending his arm to the Egyptian and Israeli leaders, Anwar El Sadat and Menachem Begin, in an effort to alleviate tension and forge peaceful relations in the Middle East, by means of the 1978 Camp David Accords.

To me, it has a more local, individual based meaning. Crossing boundaries to offer aid to those in need, or to establish rapport and bolster solidarity, is undoubtedly a noble deed. Still, in order to genuinely offer oneself in service of others, one must look within. Forging amicable and constructive bonds requires introspection, deflation of ego, and self-awareness. It means acquiring humility and considering the welfare of others to be of high importance. It means, after some serious introspection, looking at our immediate surroundings to see what can be improved, and how one can implement self-changes and reach out to advance social prosperity. This paradigm need not only apply overseas; it is applicable at the domestic, state, local, and even university levels. It means reaching across the student-teacher boundary to enhance learning, and across inter-administration boundaries to cultivate an improved learning and working environment. Above all, it means recognizing the humanity of and developing trust with those around us.

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