Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
“[M]y discovering my own identity doesn’t mean that I work it out in isolation, but that I negotiate it through dialogue, partly overt, partly internal, with others.”
― Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism
After first arriving in Bangkok as a Rotary Peace Fellow, moving in to my new home for three months on the Chulalongkorn University campus, and meeting the other Rotary Peace Fellows, we all decided to have dinner at a seafood restaurant in Bangkok. We are a diverse group, from five continents, various professions, differing ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. We are all very different, that much was obvious at the outset.
After ordering our food, somehow the discussion turned to identity, and the question was asked, “How do you self-identify?” The answers usually began with nationality but soon, as follow-up questions were asked and with some delicate pressing, some of the corollary answers included tribal affiliation, ethnic group, and sexual orientation among others. More answers included father, baseball fan, windsurfer, resident of Sao Paulo, musician and feminist. Unintentionally, this question actually helped us see our similarities in addition to our differences.
One thing we have discovered is there’s a clear sense as we see ourselves reflected in others; we know ourselves better. In this process of other-centered, self-reflection I feel privileged that by engaging with this talented and diverse group I am reflected in them, and they in me.
Our group of 21 Rotary Peace Fellows is a rich tapestry of strength, talent, authenticity, diversity, culture and depth woven together through our shared experience, living, learning and training together. It is precisely our differences that have brought us together. The country of Indonesia’s motto is “Unity in Diversity” and it could be ours too.
Now, as we enter our fifth week, we have engaged in rich and expanded discussions, heard each other opinions, positions, and interests, seen each other at our best and, honestly, not so best. We have laughed and grieved together, disagreed and danced together, practiced and played music together. We have formed a community. We are a family.
William Pierros – USA
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 27