“To exercise power, you must recognize your own power. Look at the world around you. We need your help. Stay engaged, roll up your sleeves, and get involved.”
Renowned author and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations Gayle Lemmon joined the Indian Creek Upper School student body for a conversation
on the current situation in Afghanistan and how ICS students can have a positive impact on the world around them.
Ms. Lemmon is the author of three New York Times best sellers, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, Ashley’s War and The Daughters of Kobani. She has written since 2005 on entrepreneurship in conflict zones, U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and issues such as girls’ education, the imperative to spread economic opportunity, and the fight to end forced and child marriage. She holds her MBA from the Harvard Business School and is a Fulbright Scholar, a Robert Bosch Fellow, and a member of the Bretton Woods Committee.
At this morning’s Upper School assembly, Ms. Lemmon shared her insight into the present-day experience of Afghan citizens since last month’s withdrawal of American troops. She implored students to remain aware of global events and connect to the lives of others. Ms. Lemmon emphasized her belief that storytelling is a powerful weapon in fighting indifference and complacency because hearing the stories of people who live across the world combats the idea that others are not like us. “The best way to help take away the ‘other’ is to put you right into other people’s lives.”
She described what life has been like in the Middle East over these past two contested decades as “full of lives lost, tragedies endured, and a young generation who has fought valiantly for its future.” Using anecdotes about people she has met through her years of connecting with brave, resilient Afghan citizens, Ms. Lemmon illustrated what life is like in “the toughest neighborhood filled with the sweetest, kindest people you will ever meet.” Many students were surprised to learn that one of the biggest issues in the present day is food insecurity. Ms. Lemmon then asked Indian Creek students to conduct a thought experiment to visualize what it would be like to be abruptly displaced from their current lives. She shared that Afghanistan is full of their peers - young people who have lived through a connected, mobile, urban world. “I encourage you to connect with this. Pay attention to what's happening. The thing you can do to make the most difference is to care. Caring about community around you and the difference you can make is important,” she shared. “Nobody wants to be a refugee, but they don't know what else to do.”
Ms. Lemmon invited ICS students to ask any questions they may have to help understand what is really happening in Afghanistan right now. The Upper Schoolers embraced the opportunity, asking thoughtful questions ranging from what life was like in the country during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, to what the experience is like for those in the country now. One student asked a question that was on the minds of many who were inspired by the conversation with Ms. Lemmon. “You say we can make a difference, but how?” After thanking the student for this poignant question, she advised the Creekers to “Find something you care about, roll up your sleeves, and get involved.” She shared that there are many things that high school students can do to make a difference, and gave examples like helping to write a resume, delivering food, tutoring, raising funds or holding a drive to help provide what others need, and sponsoring families who need help. She encouraged the students to take action in person, cautioning that “A like is not the same as making a difference; a # is not a helping hand.”
After inviting students who would like to continue the conversation to join her for a follow-up session after the meeting sponsored by Indian Creek’s EMPOWER club, Ms. Lemmon asked the students to help bring a shared humanity to all by take away the other. “There is nothing we need more. Each one of you has the power to make a difference. Become a leader that the next generations will look to.”