Founding Value of Service in America Inspires Global Citizenship

Founding Value of Service in America Inspires Global Citizenship

Sometimes called the melting pot of all nations, America’s founding principles and shared values have enabled it to embrace diverse cultures and religions while maintaining social cohesion. Its Declaration of Independence states that God the Creator grants all people inalienable rights. At the same time, it calls for each person to live their lives for a greater purpose because every person’s value and equal rights are given to us from a source greater than ourselves.

These founding values have formed the spirit of service based on human rights and the opportunity to build a culture and a society that transcends the  barriers of race, religion, and other divisions to find common ground in fundamental rights, the ideal of freedom, and to serve those who could not protect those freedoms for themselves.

The founding fathers of America recognized just how important these fundamental freedoms were. They willingly put their very lives on the line to protect the values that would be later articulated as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The original phrase was “life, liberty, and property.” However, it was rewritten to the more appropriate “pursuit of happiness,” which conveys the spiritual pursuit of all humanity.

The pursuit of happiness rests not on the aspiration of one individual but depends on relationships founded on virtues. Happiness cannot be achieved alone; it is found only in dynamic relationships. It is a collective effort between people and within the family. Some of the most charitable efforts, from alleviating poverty to responding to natural disasters, are motivated by this spiritual pursuit of happiness.

It is this same spirit of service that motivates many military personnel in the United States to champion human rights for all people, not just their own nation. This spirit of selfless service is what inspires service women and men to get up every day, train, and work hard to not only protect the fundamental freedom of all people but to protect the ability to create a culture of values, raising healthy families with the potential to pursue happiness. In many ways, it is the legacy of the American story – “the pursuit of happiness” for all people.

Jeremy Graham sharing his insights on service based on America’s Declaration of Independence.

Jeremy Graham is a serviceman who shared his testimony at a recent Family Peace Association family workshop. As a husband, father, graduate student, and Captain in the United States Army, the values he strives to build up in his own family are the same values that gives him the motivation and passion to serve his country, willing to even lay down his life to protect fundamental human rights and the founding ideals that made America a melting pot of people and cultures from every other nation around the world.

“I absolutely love the United States of America. I love the concept our founders had of establishing a government built on values and I am humbled and hopeful in our responsibility to make our founders’ vision work.”

Jeremy emphasized the importance of values in creating culture when he reflected on his time as a cadet. “Duty, honor, country” were the guiding values and the direction to cadets was to “not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” These values created a culture where people aspired to live up to higher ideals. With the creation of the Declaration of Independence, the founders outlined fundamental principles and values to inspire a standard of individual and collective responsibility that is essential to our success as a nation. A values-based culture creates the capacity in people to make higher ideals a reality in everyday life.

There are ideals and values, like the sense of service to humanity, that is bigger than any one nation or organization. They are universal. Global citizenship is something all of us can practice with every generation as we continue the legacy of service through our families and communities around the world.

Jeremy spoke at a recent workshop hosted by Family Peace Association USA, organized by a high school student for his Boy Scout Eagle Project. The workshop explored universal principles of the American founding and how they might apply to global citizenship.

Never Give Up, We Grow Through Overcoming Challenges

Never Give Up, We Grow Through Overcoming Challenges

Nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. It takes hard work, dedication, and a willingness to make and learn from mistakes. But most important is to keep going, even when you want to give up.

If you never give up, eventually you will reach your goal. And with each goal, comes a confidence that any challenge is surmountable, any goal is attainable, and that you grow when you challenge your limitations.

This was a hard-earned lesson for a high school junior who has striven not only to perform well academically, but also in leadership roles in his school and community. Recently he led a three-day family workshop on the founding principles of the United States and how it can inform global citizenship. The process was challenging, but with the support of his mother and community, it was a great success.

During his first year of High School everything was new, exciting, and call it beginners luck, but everything seemed easier.

Three years later, commitments have become responsibilities that require leadership and character. He is no longer the freshman following the upperclassmen, he was the upperclassmen being asked to lead by example and make hard decisions. The basic workload of homework drills, lab reports and exams has gotten heavier and heavier. Community involvement and extracurricular sports require more time and work. And all the while, his personal expectation to deliver the best had become non-negotiable.

Opening remarks at the family workshop.

It was during a moment of overload that he sought out mom’s support. Overwhelmed by all his obligations, particularly the amount of work it was taking to qualify for his Eagle Scout Badge, at first he hoped to get her approval to scale back on his workload. She did not give him that option. “You’ve come this far, you can’t quit now,” she said softly. He pushed back. He was not required to fulfill his commitment to the community project, it was voluntary. Life was getting too stressful.

“If you quit now, you are teaching yourself that it is okay to walk away from challenge.” she gently reminded him. “It’s a hard lesson to unlearn.” He kept fighting back. He barely had time to sleep or eat, let alone keep up his grades and do well in sports. Couldn’t he just let this one slide?

“You know the most important things in life are hard to attain. But it’s through the challenge you learn and grow,” she smiled.

Finally, her kind encouragement and firm affirmation of his ability to see his final project through successfully won out. He decided to take it through to the end.

And it was hard. There were more sleepless nights writing up opening remarks, there were organizing meetings recruitment calls, all while trying to keep everything else in his life in balance. But mom was also there. She brought him cookies and a cup of coco in the late evenings when he worked through the schedule. She was there to listen to his draft remarks and offer feedback. She was there to make sure he ate in the morning, packed a lunch and had a good meal in the evening. And she was there to be his advocate when he needed a voice and representation to make things work in the adult world. She worked just as hard to make sure he succeeded.

Participants pick research topics related to America’s founding ideals.

And he did. The program was an amazing success, with great reflections, and a request for more like it. When he looked at his own his experience, he had also learned a lot: about organizing and working with people, about creating a schedule, about the importance of having families learn about principles and values together, and of course that he was capable of so much more than what he thought, it just took belief and a refusal to give up.

His mother helped him see that he could do it and her gentle support that gave him the power to believe in his capacity. She saw his potential and refused to back down. Along the way, she backed him up every step of the way.

There will be challenges in every area of life, that is a guarantee. The more valuable the goal, the harder and longer the journey to attain it. But by challenging our limitations, we discover what we are capable of. It helps to have parents who can remind us of our potential, and push us when we want to give up, urging us strongly or gently to never give up and tell us how much they believe in us.

Someday they can do the same for their children, ensuring that every generation surpasses the last.

I Came Here for a Purpose Greater Than Myself.

I Came Here for a Purpose Greater Than Myself.

Namsik Yoo was excited to join a yearlong leadership program after graduating high school in the United States. Throughout the year he would travel around the world to places like Korea, Philippines, Columbia and Nepal. It was in Nepal that he would learn a valuable lesson in serving others not just as a “nice thing” to do, but an essential quality of becoming a life-long leader.

Leadership Task Force (LTF) provides opportunities for young adults to practice and develop skills that will help them become leaders in their families and communities when they return home after the one-year program. Service projects are a major component of helping LTF participants reflect on their own spiritual growth and put their goals into action.

Raising funds for the project in Nepal.

Namsik and his LTF family didn’t just show up one day at the doors of Nepalese children and families in need. It required a lot of preparation and organization, all of which him and his team were responsible for. This included fundraising for building materials and coming up with activities for community bonding before even taking the flight to Nepal.

“Whenever I was going through a hardship during fundraising, I would always tell myself to think about the children who are waiting for us in Nepal,” said Namsik. “Whenever planning out the activities with my team members, I would keep asking myself, ‘What do the Nepali people need?’”

Namsik didn’t just want to lift and move objects in a one-time service project; he wanted to come up with specific solutions to the hardships facing Nepalese families in remote areas affected by natural disasters. More importantly, Namsik wanted to help foster a sense of community, a family-bond, to transform others and himself in the process. He learned the importance of becoming an owner of change. The process of serving others starts long before getting your hands dirty. It starts inside yourself.

Namsik being welcomed by elementary school students in Parapakar.

“If I had just gone to Nepal with everything already prepared and I had not done anything before coming, then there would be nothing I could offer besides some small service work and making friends. Most importantly, without internally preparing myself, I would not be able to contribute in allowing the people we meet to feel any sort of transformation. The fundraising that we did was not just simply raising money to support the activities we will be doing in Nepal, and the project planning was not just simply organizing the activities, but this was a process of putting sincere effort into something greater than ourselves.”

 

Campus to Community and Back Again

Campus to Community and Back Again

As obtaining a college education has progressively become the norm in the United States, it also has, unsurprisingly, become a meaningful time of discovery in every young person’s life. In deciding and pursuing a field of study, they are also seeking to define the impact they might make in the world.

Yoshitaka Goto recently graduated from the University of Washington with his Bachelor’s in Bioengineering. His unique adventure from his freshman year to his graduation was featured on the UW website. Here he credits his life-changing experience on Leadership Task Force (LTF) as a driving force to achieving his spiritual goals through his academic pursuits.

In school, Yoshi was actively involved in Bioengineering programs like iGEM in which his team placed at the 2016 and 2017 international competition. He also took on leadership positions as an officer in campus groups and volunteered for Family Peace Association in his spare time. It wasn’t easy.

“My freshman year at UW was a huge culture and lifestyle shock,” said Yoshi. “I didn’t know how to study, I didn’t know how to take exams, and I had friends who wanted to go into BioE who would do much better than me in classes. By the end of freshman year, I felt that I wasn’t cut out to be in BioE and actually thought about dropping out of the major.”

At first discouraged, Yoshi was looking for motivation and purpose. This is his story:

Leadership Task Force hike until the top of Mount Jiri in South Korea.

At that point, I was very stressed and thought, ‘This is not going well,’ so I actually took a year off. I ended up going on an overseas leadership program called Leadership Task Force, a pilot program by the Family Peace Association which brought together college students from all over the world. We were based at their headquarters in Korea, and from there we developed teamwork, organization, and speaking skills to effectively raise funds and run service or educational projects in other countries. I went to the Philippines, Nepal, Malaysia, and Mongolia, and at every location, my team and I partnered with the local communities to provide a long-term and sustainable service.

I came back with more willingness to engage with people and to take more responsibility, but at the same time, I had a more open mind of what was available to me. I realized that UW is a big place, which is a little overwhelming. But it also has every single opportunity you can think of if you look for it. I came back basically a different person, and I had a better sense of purpose of why I wanted to go through university and be in the BioE program.

Yoshitaka Goto leading a children’s workshop in Mongolia

I personally believe that every single human being wants to help other people. And they might not be doing it the right way, or people might not agree that they’re doing it the right way, but I do believe every person on earth wants to help other people. A lot of people who say ‘I don’t know what I want to do’ are still passionate about something. I think that if you have those interests and you’re clueless, I recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and what you ‘should’ be doing, and trying something different.

Success in academics and life itself is a result of hard work and more importantly, the determination and passion to learn and create something that will bring benefit to many people. As Yoshi discovered in his service to others around the world, true satisfaction and fulfillment come from living a life of purpose, especially when that purpose is to live a life for the sake of others. This purpose instills motivation that can fuel your passion for a lifetime.

Programs such as FPA’s Leadership Task Force, aim to provide this kind of education and experience for this critical period of life.  To learn more about LTF and other programs, click here.

 

Gift of Gratitude from Mom

Gift of Gratitude from Mom

Starting from the gift of life, parents impart values, experiences, and attitudes that will shape their children for the rest of their lives. Now in his early twenties, Kensu has gone from receiving care to giving care to his mom and reflected on the attitudes he has been able to foster in himself thanks to his parents. This is his story.

My mom has had to go through many difficulties with her health after suffering from kidney failure. Physically, every day can be a challenge. But even in these challenges, as her son, she has given me the gift of gratitude and the ability to take on a positive attitude in spite of the difficulties.

For instance, the first time I went to the emergency room with my mom, I was frightened by what was happening and I didn’t know what to do. In the ambulance, I didn’t know how to feel. The day after going into the emergency room and then being admitted to the hospital, I went home and went back and what I saw changed how I looked at challenges in life. Walking into the room my mom was slightly sitting up and what I saw was a smile of gratitude in knowing she has family who is there for her. Through that, I knew she was feeling a little better but it also gave me the experience to learn what gratitude is.

Through these experiences, I think of it as a kind of attitude “restart.” In difficult times it can be easy to get absorbed in self-pity. But when I see how people like my mom, who has to face daily challenges but still finds time to think of and serve others, I am reminded to look beyond my own limitations and face them as an opportunity for a new start.

Even when she couldn’t walk anywhere, she would make food for others and ask me to deliver it to our neighbors. She always tries to give with a smile on her face.

Like many great mothers, mine taught me to not sulk in the disadvantages of life, but to be grateful for what I already had and use my advantages, skills, knowledge, time and energy to benefit the people and community around me.

There is good in every situation.

Life Lesson From a 9-Month-Old

Life Lesson From a 9-Month-Old

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

Following is a reflection from a mother of a 9-month-old. Watching her son grow, she has realized that she grows because of how he lives – always pushing his limits, always learning, not afraid of challenges and pain, and never giving up.

He’s only lived nine months. But in his nine months, he’s grown in leaps and bounds.

His arms are now pleasingly pudgy. We endearingly call him “thunder thighs.” His cheeks have filled out, making his face the shape of a cute peach. From this little person, I’ve learned that life is about striving to become better.

I recall holding him at the time of his birth. I could count the things he could do on my fingers: breathe, sleep, poo, eat, yawn, and open his eyes to watch the new world around him. At that time, he couldn’t even burp on his own. Yet, every little accomplishment was special to us. His cousins would coo every time he opened his eyes and a gas smile crossed his face. We would celebrate every time a burp escaped his lips.

Just a few months later he started trying to roll over to see a different angle of the world. It was hard at first, even painful when his arm got stuck behind his belly in mid-roll. But he never gave up. Eventually, we would all celebrate when he made his full roll over from belly to back, and then again when he figured how to roll from back to belly.

But he didn’t stop there. Next, he started gaining confidence in sitting. But it was no easy feat. He would fall over, landing on his face, or fall backward, hitting his head on the floor. Every time he would cry out in pain, but get up to try again after the tears cleared. Eventually, he became adept at sitting. He discovered in that position he could see people right-side-up, and grab for toys and garbage.

But as soon as he learned to sit, he realized there was a world beyond his grip. He needed to learn how to move from one place to the other. Slowly he started reaching his arms forward. Sometimes he would be stuck on all fours. He would hold and reach as long as possible until he collapsed from exhaustion. But he would not give up. Slowly, the daily training built up muscles where he never had muscles before, and be began to move forward. At first, it was more of a worm wiggle forward, as he dragged his legs behind, then he built capacity to go up on all fours. Today he is quick as lightning, especially when his sister drops a tasty morsel from the table.

But, that hasn’t stopped him – he is on to new grounds. These days he practices squats to build his leg muscles. He can stand on his own, a fact that he is very proud of. But it didn’t come without pain. There were lots of falls and head bumps along the way. He aims to walk like his elder cousins and siblings. Maybe someday run.

He impresses me. He has taught me that life should be lived like he lives it, always striving to become more, always reaching for the next step of development. He never gives up. He’s always ready to go. He faces the pain of starting a new thing without hesitation, and gets up after every fall, ready to try again. And as he goes through that process, he grows.

Sometimes I get complacent, satisfied with where I’ve come and what I’ve come to master. But seeing how my little one lives life with so much gusto – pushing himself at every turn and accomplishing so much in a short nine months, reminds me of how much more I could do if I retained that same mindset – to always learn, and always reach for more. This lesson can apply in all areas of our life – our spirituality, our relationships, our job and community engagement.

He has taught his siblings as well. His older brother gives credit to his little brother. “I learned to never give up and always do my best from my little brother.” He received a certificate of recognition for his efforts this year.

Amazing what we can learn from a nine-month-old.