Not the End, Just the Beginning

Dear faithful followers of my global adventure,

At last, I have returned to the dreary, yet strikingly beautiful Pacific Northwest. As I watched the sunset from Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC the night before my adventures began, I dreamed of the beautiful places I would encounter that would surely surpass the beauty of the Puget Sound. While the gushing waterfalls in Ghana and the mountain peaks of Peru shine bright in my mind, they cannot compare to the sentimental feelings I have for the mountains and waters of my Pacific Northwest home. I guess my dad is right about one thing… “John, we live in an amazing place.”

I graduated from Thinking Beyond Borders on Saturday, March 25, after an incredible three weeks in Washington DC meeting with various international development organizations and readjusting to the US while working on my final project in Virginia. I’ve already found snippets of my international experiences since returning in the USA, such as meeting with a representative from Ghana at the World Bank. Last September, my host father in Ghana asked me this question: “Why is it necessary for Ghana to develop so rapidly when development is destroying our precious way of life?” I asked this same question to the Ghanaian man working for the World Bank; unfortunately, he gave me no clear answer to my question. This powerful question has catalyzed a series of questions for me throughout my journey: What is the responsibility of western nations to help other countries develop? Which is more important: cultural preservation or economic opportunity? Do societies ever stop developing? And most importantly: WHAT IS DEVELOPMENT??

Well, thanks for asking! Here’s the answer I have so far, but don’t be too convinced. It’s still developing.

Development is the never-ending effort to create a world, of which human beings are a part, that has structures that are stable, sustainable, equitable, cohesive and progressive, and that promote the free-will of everything. Meanwhile, development is relative as different societies have different demands; while Ghana strives to provide affordable healthcare, clean water, and free secondary education, the United States works toward sustainability in utilizing renewable energies and improving education. A society that ceases to develop leads to arrogance and laziness. Development will only end if humanity ends, as it is in human nature to improve our own life and the lives of those around us.

At the completion of my program, I crafted a presentation which explains the confrontation of my privilege and the responsibility I now have to understand my power. Please listen to my presentation, “What do I do with my power?” to hear more about my realizations. (The first 13 minutes are my presentation, followed by my responses to questions)

While my life-changing year abroad is now over, my real journey has just begun. I look forward to continuing to question, challenge, and understand the world around me with my new perspectives as I enter into the next chapter of my life. Surely, new experiences will continue to shape my perspective and bring greater clarity and comprehension to my trip. Thank you so much for allowing me to share snippets of this experience with you. I hope that you, too, have developed a greater understanding of the world through these emails. Please always feel free to reach out if you have any questions or information to share with me!

Thankfully,

John Hammer

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