By Dr. Muhammad Hanif, United Arab Emirates
I am faculty member at the College of Business Administration, Ajman University, United Arab Emirates. Thankfully, I got a chance to join SUSI-2023 exchange program funded by the US Department of State, focusing on the study of USA institutes for economic development. The program is being conducted and managed by Institute for Training and Development (ITD), based in Amherst, Massachusetts, for six weeks this summer. I am thankful to the team ITD, especially program director Dr. Katie Lazdowski for an outstanding service, cooperation and accommodation beyond the call of duty. If the program is aimed at an introduction to American culture and values, then hardly another character be a better ambassador than Katie. Today is July 4th [and the fourth day of our program] and it is the Independence Day of USA. I am compiling this blog to share my feelings on SUSI exchange program and Independence Day. The SUSI exchange program for scholars is a welcoming initiative by founders of the program to provide a venue for co-learning by scholars from across the world. Investment made in this program carries potential returns beyond calculations for the global society.
Nations passed through different phases of collective lives, spanning over centuries. What makes a group of people a nation? Is it race? Ethnicity? Language? Region? Religion? or Ideology? Perhaps all! The United States of America declared itself an independent nation on 4th July 1776, completing 247 years of national life in 2023, through signing the independence declaration unanimously by then the 13 original colonies in Philadelphia, PA. Over the years the USA has achieved perhaps more than any contemporary nation in the areas of intellectual contributions, economic development and defense capabilities. Additionally, citizens of USA take pride in their inspirational American [universal] values aimed at preserving individuals’ rights including independence, equality, individualism, privacy, and work ethics.
On the day of July 4th, this national holiday is celebrated throughout the country. The state of Massachusetts being the signatory of independence declaration, celebrates the day with full pump and show. Boston, the capital city of Massachusetts, has developed the tradition of celebrations over the period. In the morning people gather around Old State House and visit the martyrs of independence grave yard, located in the center of the city adjacent to State House. Later on, the Declaration of Independence is read where it was originally proclaimed- from the balcony of the Old State house. Music bands performs throughout the procession and symbolic gun-fires are shot in the air. A large number of families, including children, participate in the parade and gathering to celebrate Independence Day, pay tribute and respect to ancestors who sacrificed their present for the future generations during the struggle for independence. In the evening, fireworks are displayed at the Esplanade on the Charles River, which attracts a large number of Bostonians and tourists. Visitors’ camps occupied the river bank alongside Storrow Drive across from the artistic campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Celebrations continue up to midnight including parties, picnics, family gatherings and barbecues, etc.
Independence Day is a reminder to the citizens of the USA in particular, and humanity in general, that nations progress towards prosperity by following the universal human values including civil liberties, upholding rule of law, equality and equity, inclusiveness as well as work ethic. In a famous four freedoms speech of 1941, President Roosevelt articulated the concept as a right of every human being to have freedom of speech, worship, want and freedom from fear. Over the years, perhaps these values have been compromised if not forgotten generally including USA, resulting in a polarization of societies and rise in dangerous trends of marginalizing the minority groups in various societies across the globe. The majority- the influential groups holding power and resources in any society- need to realize that a nation can act as a uniform soul only if all organs are healthy and calm. Every section of the society is an organ of the nation and must not feel neglected or persecuted. Recorded history of humanity teaches us that great achievements come through a spirit of cooperation and inclusivity, while hatred, exclusivity and persecution results in chaos and decline of nations. Internal chaos and discontentment, as opposed to external threats, act as a catalyst in decline of leading societies. The message of American Independence Day for humanity in general and USA citizens in particular is to contribute in upholding the basic human rights, as articulated by Roosevelt.
All opinions expressed by the program participants are their own and do not represent nor reflect official views from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, or of the Institute for Training and Development, Inc.