Of all the gigs I get to do on a semi-regular basis, going to Malta for the Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy workshop is up there among my favourites. Numbers vary from year to year with participants coming from all over to spend 10 days together before embarking on their online course of study. They each bring a different perspective to the table and, with such a wealth of experience and knowledge in the room, I invariably come away with more knowledge than I went with.
This year, participants hailed from Algeria, Namibia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, St Kitts and Nevis, South Africa, Tonga, and the USA. As part of my public speaking session, I asked them to prepare 5-7 minutes on some aspect of their country. Who knew there were kangaroos who lived in trees in Papua New Guinea? Or that the oxygen we enjoy on Earth may have resulted from a meteor strike in South Africa? Or that four times as many Tongans live abroad than do in Tonga itself?
Each year, it does my heart good to see so many different nationalities sit around a table and talk. They talk about everything from consular diplomacy and Internet governance policy to favourite foods and music. Opinions differ. Convictions vary. But their shared experiences add a richness that is often missing from education and help forge a cohesive unit that will embark on a two-year online journey together.
This year was particularly memorable. Catherine, one of the US participants, shared with us a video of her 102-year-old great-great-aunt talking about growing up in Brooklyn, arguably the heart of the melting pot that is America. She talks of walking down the street and greeting Greek, Irish, French Canadian, all sorts from everywhere – all getting along rather nicely, thank you very much. She says it taught them acceptance, acceptance of everyone.
Given the madness that’s going on today, it’s a timely reminder of what diversity brings to society.
In a week that involved planes, trains, and automobiles to a backdrop of inanity, insanity, and inverity, I’m grateful for the testimonies of women like Anna Kane who bring with them valuable lessons from yesterday. I’m grateful, too, to have met the 2017 MA cohort. With hearts and minds like theirs readying themselves for the policy world, I have renewed faith in tomorrow.