1. Make an identity chart for Leana Wen. What do you know about her? How do you think her identity has shaped her goal “to solve global problems by educating and motivating the public to action”? How has your identity shaped your beliefs about civic participation—about being involved in your community (local, national, or global)?
2. Wen’s first suggestion is to “educate yourself.” What do you want to know more about, in terms of problems facing communities near or far? Where might you look to find this information?
3. Wen writes about the need for people to be “globally conscious.” In other words, people should know something about what is happening around the world. Yet despite the rise in access to news, the proportion of young people who do not read or watch the news—online, in print, or on television—has actually increased. Do you think this is a problem? What can be done to get more young people to access the news? Besides watching or reading the news, how else might young people learn about what is going on in the world?
4. In an interview with Teen Ink magazine, Kristof offers advice about how we should “educate ourselves” about what is happening in the world:
Maybe the biggest thing I would caution against is something that is very human, which is to seek out sources we agree with. There is a deeply ingrained tendency for liberals and conservatives alike to find sources that just seem incredibly reasonable, and tend to be those that confirm our every prejudice. . . . And I think that tends to be bad for democracy and for one's own intellectual development. So, I would encourage students to bite the bullet and go out and seek out intelligent views that challenge the things they hold dear.
What are the consequences when we only read or watch points of view that affirm our beliefs? Where would you go to seek out views that are different from your own?
5. Wen’s second suggestion is for people to “educate others.” How might this be done? The website www.halftheskymovement.org (a companion to the book Half the Sky, written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, about the plight of women around the world) provides some ideas. It lists three “simple actions [that] have the potential to reach thousands. . . even millions of people across the planet”:
1) spread the word via social networking,
2) tell a friend by sharing an email, and
3) download images and use them on your blog or web page or add them to your email signature.
Have you ever done any of these things? What are other ways you can use the Internet to educate others about a cause that is important to you?
6. Leana’s final suggestion is to “take action.” She reminds us that “problems don’t exist just in Africa; injustices exist everywhere.” What injustices exist in your community? What is being done about them? If you were going to take action, what could you do to help?
7. Even after learning about a problem, many people do not take action. Why do you think this is the case? What obstacles get in our way? Under what circumstances might someone become motivated to take action? Have you ever been motivated to take action for something you believed in? If so, what motivated your decision to get involved? If not, why do you think that you have never felt inspired to do something on behalf of a cause you care about?
8. How can teenagers play a role in helping to solve world problems? Are those under voting age too young to make a difference? Kristof believes youth can have an impact in addressing world problems. He explains:
One thing I think today's teenagers are really good at is starting projects that make a difference abroad, instead of supporting some kind of symbolic protest that feels good but doesn't make a specific difference in people's lives. Last night, for example, I met Brittany Young, a young woman who started a group called “A Spring of Hope.” In high school she started this group [that] essentially builds wells for schools in Africa. Although this is not going to solve the world's problem of bad water, or solve education problems in Africa, for a few specific schools, it's going to mean they're going to get water where they didn't have it before. That's a real difference, and I think that there are a lot of young people who are not put off by the vastness of the challenges, but are making these incremental differences in real places .
To what extent do you agree or disagree with Kristof’s statement? What opportunities exist for teenagers to make “incremental differences in real places”? What might limit the ability of teenagers to have an impact?