Northeastern’s mission is to educate students for a life of fulfillment and accomplishment, to create and translate knowledge to meet global and societal needs, and the center is integral to this mission. To be an educated global citizen, one must have some basic understanding of religion and culture. Whether our students go on to work in business, engineering, professional sports, the arts or international diplomacy, they will be working alongside people who will not think, speak, pray or respond to conflict in the same ways as they do. I believe we all need to develop basic interfaith and intercultural competencies to address our shared global and societal challenges.
Since I arrived, I’ve seen the “I am Northeastern” motto a great deal, and I’ve been thinking about that from a spiritual perspective. On this campus, we can say with pride, “I am Jewish, I am Christian, I am Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or humanist, I am spiritual but not formally religious, and yes, and I am Northeastern. And even more than that, we can say I am a citizen of the global village. We are part of something much greater than ourselves — our family, our community, our university, our nation, our planet. At Northeastern, we have many opportunities to live out our true identities, and to become the community that the world needs us to be.
It has been amazing to see our international students stream onto campus for their orientation this week. The first international student family I met was from Thailand, from the Sikh community, the faith that was targeted in the recent hate crime in Wisconsin. To watch this mother and father deliver their son here only weeks after that awful tragedy was a powerful experience for me, and to engage them in dialogue from my own location – as a Quaker, a Christian, and a U.S. citizen – was a moment of real learning. This is the kind of encounter that Northeastern makes possible. To welcome this family to the Northeastern family, and to have them welcome me into their world for a brief moment, was a powerful reminder: we need one another, for at the deepest level, we are one.