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CAG Blog: Powered by Optimism

"Powered by Optimism" captures my reflections of life in and around an all-girls' school and highlights the values of C.A.G.: leadership, global citizenship, wellness, and teaching and learning. Underscoring it all is a deeply ingrained sense of optimism that we are preparing a generation of boldly creative women who will help change the world. 


dream flag project and global citizenship-5.13.13

The Dream Flag Project® is an initiative created and managed by The Agnes Irwin School. A decade ago, three sixth grade teachers, inspired by the dream poetry of Langston Hughes and by the concept of Buddhist prayer flags, asked their students to write their own dream poetry and memorialize it on cloth. Since that initial classroom activity, The Dream Flag Project has grown into an international phenomenon. Over 47,000 flags have been created – across the United States, but also across the globe. 

The dreams of thousands of children have been connected by the deep belief that we need a dream before we can make a better reality.

Last week, The Dream Flag Project celebrated its 10th anniversary with a wonderful poetry fair and program at the National Constitution Center. I was asked to speak to the hundreds of children, teachers and parents gathered both in person and virtually about what it takes to be a global citizen. What follows below were my remarks. 

To find out more about Dream Flags, please visit

It is such an honor to be a part of this 10-year celebration of The Dream Flag Project, and to talk to you about what it means to be a global citizen.

A few nights ago, I had the great pleasure of sharing a meal with our special visitors from Belize. During that time, I pulled 10-year old Danielle aside and asked her for the one thing she wanted to be sure I shared with you today. What she told me got me thinking.

Danielle asked that I encourage all of the people gathered here to “go for it,” to work without fear to make their dreams come true.

And I started to think about what Danielle said in the context of global citizenship. In our interconnected world, being a global citizen is both more easily done, as well as more overwhelming than ever before. There are so many ways to connect to people across the globe, which is the easy part, and therefore so many issues to consider, which can make it all feel so overwhelming.

How do you make sense of it all? How do you become the active global citizen we need you to be in order for us to live in the best of all possible worlds?

So, keeping Danielle in mind, and surrounded by the dreamers of today, and the doers of tomorrow, I thought I would share with you my top 10 list for how to become a global citizen: 

#10. Listen and learn 

We live in a complicated world. There are many issues to consider, many opinions to listen to and evaluate. How will you know what is important? Read as much as you can, ask a lot of questions about the things you are curious about. Make sure you work as hard as you can to learn, learn and learn. And then – trust yourself. Form your own opinions based on what you value and what you have come to understand. 

#9. Pick your passion(s)

What do you care about? What is important to you? Maybe there are a lot of things on that list, and that is ok, it is great even. It means you have the capacity to put yourself in the shoes of others – you have empathy – an ingredient of global citizenship without which there will be few changes for the better.

#8. Understand that we are only strong together

Just because something is happening in a different part of the world, does not mean it should not matter to us. Recently, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that we cannot afford to think of the fate of girls and women in other parts of the world as not being all of our concerns. The countries in which women and girls are treated as second-class citizens are countries that threaten world peace – so it is in all of our best interests to liberate the voices of those girls and women who are now silenced.

#7. Be bold

In case you don’t think you can – remember Malala, the 14-year-old girl from Pakistan who has become a crusader on behalf of girls’ education. Remember Alex, from Alex’s Lemonade Stand, who started to raise money for cancer research when she was four years old – and quite sick. These girls were bold – in what they felt passionate about, but also in letting the world know about it.

#6. Be good to yourself

Take care of yourself. Be as healthy as you can be. Have fun. Do the things you love to do most. They will keep you moving along and achieving your goals. 

#5. Trust that there is a lot of good in the world

It can be easy to forget that there are a lot of wonderful people out there. Who inspires you? Who makes you feel like you want to be a better person? Your mom? Your dad? Teacher? Friend? Someone in the news? Figure out who that is – and find out how they became who they are today. You might learn something that helps you become who you want to be.

#4. Make a difference and start small

Creating a better world begins in small, measurable ways. Be kind. Try to understand what makes people tick. Take care of a classmate who might need a friend. Do something nice to surprise the adult in your life who takes care of you. You will feel so good doing what is right, and you will be inspired to do more.

#3. Honor those who came before

This past year, I became a US citizen and for the first time ever, I voted in an election. For me, this was more than casting my ballot – I realized that less than 100 years ago, many women and men fought for the right of all citizens, regardless of gender, to participate actively in our democracy. In all of your efforts, remember that there were people who came before, who paved the way for us, and they deserve our loyalty and gratitude.

#2. Commit to your dream

When you create a Dream Flag, you put your dreams into words for the world to see. Now, you are committed. You have made a promise to yourself and to the world that this dream is one you will work hard to make happen. Our dreams do not come true unless we, ourselves, do what we can to make them a reality. Your Dream Flag should count as your marching orders.

#1. Go for it -- make your dream fly

When your Dream Flag flies together with the all of the hundreds, thousands of Dream Flags that have been created, you have become part of a movement. You see with your own eyes that you are part of something greater than yourself. If all of us work on fulfilling just our own dream, the sum of all of those dreams will, undoubtedly, create a world of global citizens who are committed to a peaceful, kind and loving future. What more could any one of us ask for? 

Congratulations, Dream Flaggers – and to many more years of flying dreams!

Posted by on Monday May, 13, 2013

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