Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Why #IStandWithCEU

We moved to Budapest in 2004.
My wife Dora enrolled in the MBA Program at Central European University.

The University plugged her into a network of people who lived, worked, and thrived in a world where borders do not restrict.

In seminars, peers from around the globe considered how to communicate across cultures, how to negotiate with someone who holds different values, and how to work towards a future where differences don't divide us.

Dora went on to join an international team of professionals who advised businesses seeking to develop opportunities in new markets like Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Those years taught us to tear down walls and seek out ways to work with others.

Those years were about seeing our differences as assets - as conversation starters.
The unfamiliar was an invitation.
"So, wait... You celebrate Christmas in January? Who brings the presents?"
"No. I don't know anything about Zoroastrianism. What is it?"
"Look, you're going to have to explain the regions of India to me."

A few years after Dora graduated from CEU, I joined the University as a member of the faculty. I worked with students from Romania, Nigeria, Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Germany, and the list goes on. I developed a composition course that focused on communication across cultures.

It was at CEU that I began to understand the potential political and ethical implications of teaching students to write in English.

While at CEU, I realized the extent to which stepping into the unfamiliar can change a person.  It sent me back to school to study people joining professional and scholarly communities.

Hungarian politicians passed a bill aimed at shutting CEU down.
Dora and I are profoundly disappointed.
The people attacking CEU are cowards.
They are afraid of the challenges presented by a changing world.
They think they can stop those changes by building fences and walls, by stifling inquiry, and by attacking critics.

The cowards are having a moment right now.
They convinced a lot of people to fear the unfamiliar.

But I am not afraid.
Dora's not afraid.

The cowards' moment will pass.