When President Donald Trump addressed the United Nations on Tuesday, Sept. 25, and bragged about U.S. successes on a global scale, he received widespread laughter from the audience. His own tweet from August 2014 highlights an ultimate irony:
‘‘We need a President who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire World.’’
The United States and its citizens do not have the most favorable reputation. A 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that less than half of the 38 countries surveyed had a favorable view of the U.S.
Some of this might stem from specific foreign policy decisions set in motion by the Trump administration which angered and frustrated members of the international community. These decisions include withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and Iran Nuclear Deal, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and starting a tariff war with China.
While these events have stirred the community abroad, they have caused unrest on a domestic level and created a deep partisan divide. This divide makes us seem vulnerable to people in other countries and have led to a new idea of what it means to be an American.
Changing sentiments toward Americans should matter to us, especially as Lehigh students.
We are the future of domestic and international politics and our generation will be the next to inherit both the good and bad of what all administrations do with their time in Washington.
Lehigh is a hotbed of international connections, and given the resources we have, it’s important we are hyperaware of our changing reputation, as Americans and future leaders.
In 2004, Lehigh became just the sixth university in the world to gain non-governmental organization recognition by the United Nations. As an NGO, Lehigh has the responsibility of spreading information to its constituency about its beliefs, activities and practices.
The partnership has provided opportunities for Lehigh students to attend speeches by world leaders, travel to the United Nations and take part in other events that promote our status as an NGO. Occasions such as these offer us the chance to hear and experience how members of international politics interact both with each other and eager youth.
This connection is extremely rare for a university, and it should be taken advantage of now more than ever as our country holds such a rocky relationship with many members of the United Nations.
Gaining knowledge on how our country fits within the scope of international politics is an important step for us to take if we are to enter adulthood with the open-mindedness to observe our damaged reputation and work to fix it.
Other globally focused entities at Lehigh such as the Office of International Affairs, the Global Union and an abundance of study abroad programs provide students with the opportunity to gain experience beyond the boundaries of our campus on South Mountain.
Studying abroad, interacting with international students or gaining experience working in a foreign country is bound to increase awareness of our reputation overseas. Without this perspective, we close ourselves off to criticisms of our country, and we think our entire reputation is dictated domestically.
Once we have that awareness, we can carry ourselves purposefully to reflect how we would like Americans to be viewed, regardless of how our leadership is seen.
Trump’s speech at the United Nations was an embarrassing moment for our country, and our reputation as a whole may see worse times before it starts to get better.
But it is up to us to improve how the world sees us, and with the opportunities and resources that we are provided at Lehigh, surely we are able to gain more of an international perspective before it’s our turn to take our place in the game of global politics.