By 8 a.m. October 4, the EARTH University community and nearby high schools had already filed into the gymnasium and now eagerly awaited the opportunity to discuss one big question: What is dignity?
Global Dignity Day is a worldwide event seeking to answer that. Although this was the first time the event was held on a Costa Rican university campus, it has been celebrated every third Wednesday of October in more than 70 countries across the globe for many years.
Seeking to inspire people to be more respectful and nurturing to themselves and others, Global Dignity Day also promotes engaging young people – encouraging them to think about human dignity and everyone’s right to it.
EARTH University President Arturo Condo opened the event. “At EARTH, we seek to educate leaders who defend the dignity of other human beings,” he said. “It’s important we share our stories because the hard circumstances we manage to overcome can inspire others.” Condo then offered a warm welcome to the guest of honor – Costa Rican boxer Hanna Gabriels. Despite needing to concentrate on a title-defending fight the following week, she carved out a few hours from her training schedule to share her life story and personal definition of dignity.
Gabriel’s message was clear: “Do not let anyone but you define you.” Fulfilling her many distinct roles – including wife, mother and athlete – hasn’t always been easy, but she embraces each, and dismisses the people who instruct her on what ought to be important to her.
It was then the turn of Mastercard Foundation Scholar Manfred García (‘17, Costa Rica) to share his personal story, through which he explained we are all capable of overcoming struggle and being our best selves.
The attendees organized into 20-person discussion groups – each led by a faculty, staff, student or invitee facilitator – and relocated themselves to quiet areas around EARTH’s campus. In these safe space – through trust, dialogue and the exchange of ideas – they set out to define dignity, get to know each other more deeply and discover their commonalities. They ended the small group sessions by writing self-addressed letters that the University will deliver to them in one year, explaining how they will encourage dignity and how will they promote it amongst others.
As part of the Global Dignity Day activities, EARTH joined INSIDE OUT, a worldwide participatory art project.
This initiative – born in 2011 from the mind of French photographer JR – seeks to capture personal identity through large-format photographs. The images are placed in highly visible spaces to generate curiosity and lead to greater awareness of the richness of human complexities and diversity.
Prior to the event, EARTH students were photographed by Costa Rican photographer Esteban Chinchilla, who donated the finished headshots to the University. The 55 portraits were printed on 3-foot x 4.5-foot paper in New York by Inside Out, mailed to EARTH and displayed in the gym.
Joining the INSIDE OUT initiative served as another opportunity to share the story of EARTH with the world, while raising awareness on campus around issues and values of global import.
If you want to know more about the project, take a look at the project trailer below:
Or watch the founding artist’s TED Talk – “Using art to turn the world Inside Out” – for which he won the TED Prize in 2011.