The diversity of the new members of Congress: women, members of the LBGTQ community, Muslim, non-religious, Latina/o – is truly inspiring.David J. Smith
As I have done now for several years, I’d like to end the year with some reflections on the past year.
It’s been a turbulent year in terms of peace and conflict issues, including human rights, humanitarian need, and climate change (which now is clearly a peacebuilding issue). What struck me most this past year continues to be the dissonance that exists between U.S. domestic and international policy – mostly coming from the White House – and the rest of the world in responding to international crises and with many Americans in responding to domestic concerns. The list of issues and challenges that we face is a long one. The Trump administration continues to deny climate change nothing with a recent U.S.Interagency report, but that President Trump disputes. In the U.S., the number of hate crimes and presence of extremism continues to rise, but again, Trump is either tone deaf or worse fans the flames. The human rights challenges that this administration has ignored or made worse is a long list also, with the Jamal Khashoggi murder the most recent example. And on security issues, apparently Trump will renege on a Cold War agreement with the Russians on intermediate range missiles. A shortsighted move.
Moving beyond Trump, there continues to be a serious humanitarian crises around the world: new ones, and older ones that are getting worse. With nearly 69 million displaced people globally, the need is great and the responses are insufficient. We are seeing more displacement in the U.S. with the recent wildfires in California. (I wrote an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun about this issue). Here, the convergence of climate change and displacement is apparent. We have so many international crises at present that many are lost in the news including the potential of serious conflict in Burundi and the continued crisis in Mali. And domestically, gun violence shows no signs of abatement. 2018 was a difficult year with several tragic events including the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
Are there good signs? Activism is up. The recent congressional elections in the U.S. demonstrated the muscle of millennials and women. The diversity of the new members of Congress: women, members of the LBGTQ community, Muslim, non-religious, Latina/o – is truly inspiring. Overall, the numbers of millennial and Gen Xers casting votes was high, boding well for the future.
Professionally, I have had a productive year. My professional life is divided between my work with the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education and my consulting and career coach. The Forage Center has made significant strides this year with the establishment of a training site in Western Maryland. We are now offering our programing more frequently with a program recently in September 2018 and one to be held in held in March 2019. In 2019, we are focusing on fundraising and further development of our programmatic efforts. I am grateful for my colleagues and Forage Center family. During 2018, I’ve continued to build my career coaching practice. I focus my work on those interested in peacebuilding, international, conflict resolution, and education careers. I continue to publish frequently through LinkedIn and the FulbrightEdge. Recently, I was invited to join Forbes Coaches Council which allows me to publish on Forbes.com. I’m also been fortunate to be working with students, teaching courses at George Mason University and Drexel University. Working with would-be peacebuilders and conflict resolvers is the most rewarding work I do.
For my family, it’s been a rewarding year. Our daughter is her second year at Towson University majoring in early childhood education. In the spring, she will be studying at Yonsei Unversity, and we will visit her in June. Our son completed his Peace Corps service in October. He spent 2 years teaching mathematics in Namibia. We will be glad to have him home. Finally, I’m glad to be in frequent collaboration with my wife Lena on many things, not just raising children. She is teaching at Montgomery College, and we celebrated 30 years of marriage this year.
For 2019, I have many hopes. A more peaceful and just world is at top of the list. We can do so much more when it comes to issues of gun violence and promoting understanding and advancing humanitarian compassion, both so important today.
I wish you a reflective and inspiring New Year.