Americans are grappling with the role of racism in midterm elections and a recent mass shooting at a synagogue. News this week from the FBI that reports of hate crimes increased by about 17 percent in 2017 adds to concerns.
But efforts to bridge cultural barriers are present, too. When comic book legend Stan Lee died this week, memorials to the Spider-Man creator highlighted his stalwart denunciation of bigotry and his goal of keeping the Marvel universe diverse. Mr. Lee’s legacy will include his own efforts to broaden cultural understanding. “We live in a diverse society – in fact, a diverse world,” he noted, “and we must learn to live in peace and with respect for each other.”
Lee believed heroes can be everyday people. Given the current climate, some might say that high school students studying in the United States from other countries fit that bill. Their role as ambassadors is on display this week as many give presentations for International Education Week, a joint effort of the US State Department and the Department of Education.
My husband and I are in our third year of hosting US-sponsored exchange students. Because of them, our understanding of how Islam is practiced, and of living in former Soviet republics, has grown. I’m reminded that for every question they and their cohort answer about what languages they speak and which side of the road they drive on, they make the worldview of Americans just a bit wider.
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