Global Citizenship

Global citizenship has many definitions and interpretations. The United Nations Academic Impact Hub defines Global Citizenship as “an umbrella term for the social, political, environmental, or economic actions of globally-minded individuals and communities on a worldwide scale” (United Nations Impact Hub). Their website also includes other definitions for submitted by people from around the world. All of these definitions mention global awareness and concern for issues expanding beyond the boarders of their respective nations. And although these definitions of global citizenship seem appropriate, the open-ended nature of these definitions still leaves many questions.What does being a “global citizen” actually look like? How does global citizenship play out in extremely wealthy nations such as the United States? It also seems that most people, both in America and around the world, believe that they are global citizens to some extent. Is this really true? What are Americans really doing to make a difference internationally? While investigating these questions I came across one necessary characteristic to being a responsible global citizen: humility.

American citizens take great pride not only their personal successes, but the successes of their country. As the “American dream” pressures average citizens to gain wealth and prestige, there is also great pressure for America to remain the most wealthy and powerful nation in the world. North America alone accounts for 31% of the world’s wealth (Luna). Furthermore, the top 1% of richest people in the world own 43% of the world’s wealth (Wealth Inequality Around the World).

This picture shows the global distribution of wealth in 2007:


Although many would be quick to say an effort must be made to more equally distribute the wealth, very few Americans would be willing to give up any of their luxuries. They are accustomed to, and even proud, of the riches their nation has acquired.  And whether many Americans are willing to admit it, it is almost impossible to have such as arrogant attitude and be a responsible global citizen. In Beyond the Pledge of Allegiance: Becoming a Responsible World Citizen, Dr. Tom Arcaro juggles with the interconnections between patriotism, nationalism, ethnocentrism, and racism. Arcaro asks if patriotism and globl citizenship can effectively coexist. He further asks if patriotism means “that some people –-people in our country— are indeed worth more than others?” (Arcaro, 8). Although most people would agree that global equality in a necessity, very few would actually act to improve current the current inequality. Americans say they are adamant about being responsible global citizens, but their actions prove otherwise. Why is there such a disconnect? I believe this is because in American society today, global equality is not functional.

Functionalist theorist analyze “each part of society in terms of how it contributes to the stability of the whole society” (Crossman). In American society today, gaining capital seems to be the driving force behind many institutions. These institutions include schools, government, healthcare, and businesses (Seumas). As Linda Polman points out in her book War Games, even NGO’s are influenced to provide aid to areas of interest to donors, not necessarily areas that need aid the most (38). Each part of society needs money to function, that way society can function fluently as a whole. Our society is driven by need have “more”, whether that be money, luxury, or prestige. Therefore, Americans go on draining the world of all its money and resources. To fully take on our role as global citizens, Americans would have to completely rework the way we think and how our society functions. To be responsible global citizens, Americans would have to give up their privileged ways and humble themselves for the good of the world as a whole.

I found the following video that I believe summarizes the impact America has globally and how we can further become responsible global citizens.

In the PSA video, many people mention that the world is completely interconnected. Between the internet, the global economy, and the media, it seems very few corners of the world remain untouched by globalization. Therefore, I believe we are all global citizens. All of our actions can have tremendous affects on the world, good or bad. We have the choice to accept our roles as global citizens, or to go on simply ignoring these responsibilities. Dr. Arcaro reminds us that “with great privilege comes great responsibility” (2). As Americans we have been born into great wealth, and with that wealth comes power. We have the power to transform American priorities to become more globally conscious. We have to explain that the American “way of life” must be humbled so that the global community can progress. Dr. Arcaro explains that these changes will occur “by looking beyond our own families to others within our local communities” (18). By changing the mentality of our local communities, we can hope for more expansive change in the future.

Based on these findings, I believe American global citizenship can be shown through raising awareness about ethnocentric biases, our own nations impact on the world, and how our societal priorities must be reevaluated. I believe that is only through this type of awareness that a significant difference will be made.


Works Cited:

Arcaro, Tom. “Beyond the Pledge of Allegiance: Becoming a Responsible World Citizen.” 05 June 2013

Crossman, Ashley. “Functionalist Theory.” Sociology. Web. 05 June 2013. <>.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

Luna, Miguel Ángel Muñoz. “The Distribution of Wealth in the World”. 10 January 2012. Web. 05 June 2013. <>.

Miller, Seumas. “Social Institutions.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N.p., 8 Feb. 2008. Web. 05 June 2013. <>.

United Nations International Impact Hub. “Global Citizenship.” Linda Bosniak in “Denationalizing Citizenship” Web. 05 June 2013. <“denationalizing-citizenship”>.

Wealth Inequality Around the World. 17 April 2013. Video. 05 June 2013.  <>



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  1. Posted June 8, 2013 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    This is a very good exploration of and comment on the term global citizen, and I love your focus on humility. For the published draft I would like you go go just a bit deeper into that point.

  2. Posted June 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    I agree with you that as globalization increases, we as Americans need to hold ourselves more accountable for our actions and not turn a blind eye to the enormous effects that our actions have on the rest of the world. An example of this is the increased globalization of food markets and the simple impact of greater quinoa demands by Western countries on the global market. This is an article in the Guardian that illustrates the impacts really well:

  3. Posted June 6, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I really liked how you incorporated the idea behind the quote, “with great power comes great responsibility.” As Americans, we are born into extreme wealth compared to the rest of the world, and this wealth can afford us the opportunity to help those who were not born into such great privilege. The wealth map was a great visual tool to illustrate this point.