Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah spoke at the latest Lawrence University convocation. Professor Appiah aimed to stress the importance of becoming an active global citizen.
“College aged people are committed to making the world better so I hope to highlight mechanisms that allow people to bring about change,” begins Appiah.
Appiah’s background contributes largely to his ethical involvement. His father played a role in the government of Ghana and as did his grandfather in British government. His mother and grandmother also encouraged a concern for the nation and universe.
“I think it is vital to promote not just how to decide what is right but also how to do what is right,” continued Appiah.
Through this, Professor Appiah stressed honor and shame as the main mechanisms of change. Through reciprocal dialogue of mutual respect, one can implement a new code of conduct that promotes a decent life.
Appiah recognizes that “decent life” is difficult to neatly define.
“Human life is complicated. Cosmopolitanism speaks to make good ways of being a human being within reason,” said Appiah.
Consequently, Appiah avoids the stigma of implementing western ideals throughout the globe. He highlights an individual’s right to “a cultural life” and having the privilege to choose that life.
Despite this, he recognizes the need for change in certain parts of the world.
“In Saudia Arabia, for example, there is evident gender inequality. [In response to this], we cannot force them to do what is right but merely encourage an open dialogue. Gender equality is fairly new even in the United States,” reminds Appiah.
Students however, had trouble understanding how to get involved with this issue. Freshman Sabrina Conteh said, “ [Professor Appiah] didn’t tie back how we can help directly change anything—it was all very broad.”
Other students felt inspired by his message.
“As a dual citizen, Professor Appiah’s ideas really resonated with me,” said sophomore Andres Capous, “I think it is important to maintain a global outlook.”
While Appiah encouraged participating in global dialogue, he also stressed the ability to be able to receive criticism.
“We have to be able to listen to the changes our nation could benefit from. For example, we contribute to almost a fourth of the globe’s prisoners yet only 4% of the global population. This would definitely be criticized by others,” highlights Appiah.
This open dialogue returns to the notion of honor, which Appiah believes is “beyond a price.”
“Honor is the answer to the ongoing civic conversation regarding what things are worthy of doing to maintain our functioning society that doesn’t reply solely on government and the market,” said Appiah.
Professor Appiah believes that through the mechanism of honor people can be guided to reform, yield shared commitments and pursue a new code of conduct.
“It is with honor that we can have unanimous and reasonable pursuit of a decent life,” concludes Appiah.