In 2006, three young leaders began a conversation at the World Economic Forum about polarization across the globe, what divides us and the challenges we all face. Haakon Magnus, crown prince of Norway; John Hope Bryant, CEO and founder of Operation HOPE; and Pekka Himanen, philosopher and professor, reflected as well on the universal desire of humanity to be understood and appreciated, to achieve dreams and develop collective potential.
From those thoughts surfaced the need to do something that would spread the values and principles comprising dignity. And so began Global Dignity Day, an initiative bringing people together to champion the belief that each and every person:
This month’s event marks EARTH University’s second consecutive year of celebrating, bringing together more than 400 participants – EARTH students, faculty and staff members, and youth from a nearby high school – to learn how dignity comes to life through lived experiences.
The event consisted of three parts:
1. Opening plenary session where the subject was presented.
2. Facilitated small-group discussion and activities.
3. Closing plenary session where participants’ dignity stories were shared.
The opening session was kickstarted with an upbeat original song about dignity, performed live by Dasha Montcalm (’20, Costa Rica), Pierre Ansdiere Denis (’21, Haiti), Andrés Charpentier (’20, Costa Rica), Joel Yantalema (’18, Ecuador), David Torres (’18, Ecuador), and Karen Marroquí (’18, Guatemala).
The empowering chorus went “Llénate de amor, siente la buena energía, ¡acéptate!” (“Fill yourself with love, feel the good energy, accept yourself!”).
Later, EARTH President Arturo Condo encouraged reflective attitudes in all participants. “If we are to be leaders, we must learn that the duty of a leader is to respect and protect the dignity of many people,” he said. “The purpose of this celebration is to strengthen and commemorate our dignity and that of the people with whom we will work toward a common goal.”
Condo then introduced Natalia Vindas as the special guest and keynote speaker. Vindas – a wheelchair user since a transit accident damaged her spine a few years ago – was recently selected to represent Costa Rica in the World Adaptive Surfing Championship this December in La Jolla, California. When off the board, she is the director of accessibility for Plura, a social enterprise advocating for inclusivity along with more work and tourism opportunities for people with disabilities.
By sharing her story, she motivated participants to pursue their own purpose in life – insisting that sometimes we must reinvent ourselves in order to reach our maximum potential and to help others reach theirs.“The sea, like life, is totally unpredictable,” she said. “Perfect waves can come. You can paddle out, poorly position yourself and everything can go wrong. You feel like you’re drowning. All of a sudden, you emerge from the wave and continue living. You paddle out again and await the next wave. That’s life. We experience different situations. It matters what we do with them and the impact we want them to have on the people around us.”
Each participant penned a letter to oneself – promising to put values of dignity into action – and sealed it in an envelope. They will receive their letter on Global Dignity Day 2019, where they will have time to reflect on the advancement of their goals and commitment.
In the event’s closing session, a handful of participants volunteered their stories of dignity to inspire the congregation.Luz Otálvaro (’21, Colombia) explained how she felt after the activity. “Seeing the smiles painted across everyone’s faces tells me that we are proud of who we are and recognize the value of this day. All the shared stories – especially Natalia Vindas’s – are models of overcoming obstacles and show that if you are persistent, anything is possible. It’s important that we love and accept ourselves and we recognize the value of the people in our lives.”
To learn more about Global Dignity Day or to get involved – no matter where you are in the world – visit their official website.