“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Malcolm X to Mecca.
Diedrich Bonhoeffer to Harlem.
And Frederick Douglass to Ireland.
These leaders were forged through their international experiences. There’s something about international travel that opens eyes, provides margin for contemplation, and awakens adventure. New experiences, surprises, and interactions with all things different force a type of disoriented learning that seeks understanding. International travel chisels away long-held assumptions, while also galvanizing transcendent truths and postures.
For Frederick Douglass, as his popularity and notoriety increased in the US, fear was growing that his former master would attempt to find Douglass. Many encouraged Douglass to tour Ireland and Great Britain. This journey affords us some of Douglass’s most poetic passages from his memoir as if the water and travel gave rise to the words themself. Douglass was supported by comrades who were mutually inspirational. He was mentored by the abolitionists of a generation past, energized by the packed rooms to engage his lectures, and for the first time was treated “not as a color, but as a man” (Blight, Frederick Douglass, 138-156).
I’ll assume the immersive, international advances played a significant role in your process of choosing this program. We continue to lament our “missed” opportunity and hope with all hope that we can increase our broad, wholesome, and charitable views through linking arms… oh wait, that would be too close in proximity… together this fall.
Reflecting on international travel gives me renewed fervor for the short-term sending of college students with Cru. Not so much for the lasting change they might bring (though I would never minimize what God can do), but that they might participate in for their own formation.
Bigotry-battering travel is a non-negotiable element for the formation of today’s thoughtful leaders. Where shall we go?
Photo Credit: Open Plaques
David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018).