SOC376 WT 2015

Syllabus 2015

Becoming a Global Citizen

4 S.H.

Winter term
January 6- January 27, 2015


Elon University

Instructor:                              Dr. Tom Arcaro

Office Phone:                          336-278-6442
Other phones:                        336-263-4578 (c)
Office:                                        Global Commons 210
Office Hours:                           I will be online at some point most days and in the office early afternoons.

Final Examination:          27 January 2015.  All assignments must be completed by 12:00noon of this day.  We will use this time for final presentations, bringing our work to closure, and planning next steps regarding service work followup (letters, videos and AWV blog post).

I look forward to working with you in probing deeper into the many critical social problems facing our global community.  In many ways I want you to consider this course an extension of what you learned in GST 110, The Global Experience, and indeed I hope you bring much of that learning and growth into our many online discussions.  We have much important work to do in this class, and by the very act of signing up for this course you have begun to be part of an important –no critical- effort to make the world and more just place for all.

Catalog Discription

In this course we will survey a wide range of global social problems including the current Ebola outbreak, the threat of ISIS, child immigrants from Central America, sex trafficking in Nepal, Thailand and elsewhere, and issues related to global climate change, and other issues and news current during the time frame of our session. Using these crises as a backdrop we will examine and critique the global humanitarian responses to these events/phenomena including both emergency aid and development efforts. Special emphasis will be placed on the lives of the aid workers who are the point on contact between the donors and the beneficiaries of humanitarian aid.  Students will read about and research these topics and will be responsible for presenting to the class on an issue of their choice. Students will be challenged to work together on a class project to actively address one or more issues. Work in the course will be geared toward deepening each student’s understanding of what it means to be a globally aware and ethically responsible citizen.

Course Objectives

The objectives for this course include exploring the following subtopics:

1) Review the major theoretical perspectives in sociology
In order to move beyond merely describing the world we must accumulate a set of conceptual and theoretical tools to help us go from asking the what questions to the why and how questions, i.e., from describing to analyzing and explaining.  Our first job will be to look around the world and be able to know what is happening, but in the end, we will have the goal of offering some critical analyses as well.

The main theoretical perspectives in sociology include functionalism, symbolic interactionism, conflict theory and, more recently, evolutionary psychology.  We will do primers of each as we start the course.  Your Intro to Sociology text will have a chapter covering these main perspectives.

2) Explore a wide range of global social problems
We will examine a wide array of global social problems using both the Internet and readings I will post on our blog.  Each student will present what they learned in their GST 110 course and after sharing those insights we will go on to cover more deeply some of those topics as well as break some “new ground.”

3) Examine the concept “global citizen”
Through reading an array of essays and articles we will explore what it means to be a global citizen.

4) Examine the world of humanitarian and development aid and critiques thereof  in both text and other media.

5) Imagine, write, and send a letter to an elected official addressing and/or proposing a piece of  legislation relative to issues discussed in this course (e.g., US policy toward Haiti).


Service component:  Three parts

This course will have a service component in three ways.

1.  In teams of two you will research, write and send a letter to a US elected official.  Detailed instructions will be handed out.

2.  You will either individually or in teams of up to four create a short (3 minutes maximum) video that will be submitted for consideration for either the Golden Radiator Award or the Rusty Radiator Award for 2015.

3.  You will either individually or in teams or up to three research, write and have posted a blog entry 2015 D4D National Conference RFP based on data from the Humanitarian Aid Worker survey conducted by Dr. Arcaro and a veteran aid worker know as J, his nom de plume.

Required Course Materials

I recommend that you get started on these books immediately.  All are available online at and you should order them ASAP.  The Polman book has been ordered through the Campus Shop.

I will post other readings related to our various topics on our blog.  These will either be essays or book chapters.  I may also post numerous “mini lectures” as audio or video podcasts, and you will be required to listen or watch these by specified points in the course.  You will also be sent links to various web sites as we proceed through the term.

Course Requirements
To accomplish the objectives for this course, you will complete the following:

Reading Assignments
You will have several reading assignments throughout the term, beginning with reading the assigned monographs.  There will be additional readings assigned in class from web sources. You should read all material assigned and be ready for discussions on our blog.  All writing that you do for the course should use and reference assigned reading materials as well as any outside research that you do.

Blog posts
General information about content and evaluation:  On a regular basis (at least 2-3 times per week) you will be asked to respond to prompts posted to the blog.  The purpose here is to apply class material with current events as well as expand on and apply sociological thinking.  It is important that students also research and provide academic support for the positions, observations, and perspectives presented.  To be clear, for each blog post prompt you are to (1) respond to the prompt in at least 500 words and with at least two citations (at least one from an assigned readings and/or Sociology Intro book) and one from an outside source, (2) respond to at least two of your colleague’s posts, (3) appropriately categorize your posts. So, for example, for the Assignment 1 post you will click  “Assignment 1″ before you publish. You are advised to write your own response before reading the posts of others.  These posts  (including your responses to colleagues) will be evaluated based on both the quality and quantity of writing.  I will be looking for analytical creativity, good use of research materials, and well reasoned and presented information and points of view.  You cannot pass this course without participating regularly on the blog.  Failure to make regular and timely posts will have major consequences for your grade.

Class Participation and Other Homework
I expect you to participate in class discussions and complete any additional homework assignments that may be asked of you.  All of your interactions on our blog site will “count” toward your class participation.

Summary of Course Requirements and Grading:

  • Blog posts and comments to peers:      30%       at least 2-3 times per week
  • Letter to elected official draft:                15%
  • Letter to elected official final:                15%
  • Video draft w/ documentation:             15%
  • Video final w/ documentation:             15%
  • Aid Worker Voices post:                         10%

General Grading Rubric

Here are the questions I ask when I am grading any student work:

1. Was the assignment turned in on time? (Depending upon the circumstances, late assignments will be accepted but will be downgraded.)
2. Did the student follow instructions completely and correctly?
3. Was the student conscientious in completing the assignment? Did the student put in sufficient time and thought relevant to the assignment?
4. Does the student correctly understand and use the sociological ideas, perspectives, concepts, or theories on which the assignment is based?
5. Does the student follow a format appropriate to the assignment?
6. Is correct spelling and proper grammar used throughout the student’s work?
7. Is the level of depth of analysis, explanation, or discussion appropriate to the assignment?
8. Is the length of the completed work appropriate for the assignment?
9. Has the student shown creativity of thought and style in the assignment?
10. If outside sources were used were they cited properly? Was a list of references included at the end of the assignment?


Plagiarism and Cheating

You are required to abide by the Elon honor code at all times during this class.  We will verify your quoted sources for accuracy and any falsified quotes or sources will result in a failing grade.




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Letter to Elon’s Class of 2017

To the class of 2017:

As you embark on this journey we call college, you are most likely filled with all sorts of emotions. You might feel happiness, excitement, eagerness, and maybe even a little fear. You may already think you know what the “college experience” is all about, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether you plan on majoring in business, joining a particular sorority, or playing club lacrosse, Elon University offers plenty of classes and activities to keep you occupied during your time here. But between cramming for exams and managing your social life, I want to challenge you to make the most of your time here at Elon. And I don’t mean by joining the most clubs or having the best GPA. College is a time of learning and growing, taking risks and discovering who you are. During this time you will learn to be independent, form your own opinions, and truly develop into your own person. As a student that has already spent a fair amount of time here, I ask that you enter Elon with an open mind and with one expectation: to grow, transform, and challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible. Use this knowledge so that you can leave Elon as an engaged, informed, and humble citizen of the world.

Elon’s mission statement is as follows: “We integrate learning across the disciplines and put knowledge into practice, thus preparing students to be global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good.” To truly embrace this mission, we must learn to overcome our own personal biases and opinions. Do not let your own personal beliefs overshadow the brilliant ideas shared at this university. College is not just a time to listen and absorb information, it is a time to experiment and challenge preconceived ideas. Please do not take this unique experience for granted, because this kind of opportunity will teach you how to be an engaged learner for the rest of your life.

To truly fulfill Elon’s mission statement, I also ask that you use your time here to develop critical thinking and analytical skills that will make you both a better leader and global citizen. Not all the information you are presented is true, and hardly any of that information comes without some sort of bias. Looking past these biases to reveal the truth is a difficult but necessary task for a global citizen. Therefore, critically examine everything you learn about, not only at Elon, but in all facets of your life. In this way, you will become a more informed member of society.

And lastly, I challenge you to recognize the importance of humility during your time at Elon. This university is home to some of the most privileged people in the entire world. And as future leaders in this country, we have the power to continue an attitude of arrogance, or show others how to have an open mind to different cultures and ways of thinking.  Do not assume your way is the “best” way. Approach all new ideas with a sense of humility.

I believe that if you enter Elon with this kind of attitude, your experience here will be life changing.  You will leave this school with not only a degree, but as a global citizen ready to take on any challenge the future may hold.

Posted in Letter to the Class of 2017 | 19 Comments

Final blog post

Last chapter of the book?

The prompt below was the one that was used for the final exam when I taught this course in 2012.  The essays from this class will be part of a (final?) chapter in our book.  Your letters, written to the Class of 2017, can and should be part of this chapter as well.  

Before you publish categorize this under “Letter to the Class of 2017” 

Just as with your midterm, your final exam blog post will be an act of public scholarship.  In this case your intended audience are members of the Elon University Class of 2016, the students that will be sitting under the oaks outside West in late August listening to Dr. Lambert, just as you did when you started your career at Elon.

A thought:  Over the years as I have watched these incoming first year students I am often reminded of the Zen koan about the cup of tea:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

For your final exam you are to write an open letter to the members of the Class of 2016 giving them advice or counsel regarding how they should proceed with the gift that they are being given.  More specifically, you can refer to the Elon mission statement which says, in part, that, “We integrate learning across the disciplines and put knowledge into practice, thus preparing students to be global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good.”

I will offer these letters [with your permission; let me know if you do not want yours offered.  If I do not hear from you I will assume that it is OK with you.] to Dr. Jeffery Coker, Director of General Studies and the person who oversees all of the GST 110 sections, and suggest that he have them emailed to the faculty teaching GST 110 and then passed on to the students.

In your letter make an effort -though not in such a way that it disrupts the flow and message of your essay- to include insights from our texts, our conversations, and what you have learned in this course.  I do ask you to use the term ‘ethnocentrism’ in your essay.  Be creative, compelling and write the kind of letter that will both inform and move them.

Both email your final essay to me and post your essay on the blog by 9:00PM Friday evening.



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The Song of Uhuru

Uhuru (Swahili for “freedom”)


I recently went on a journey. It was a journey in search of freedom for everyone and the truth of the world. It was my attempt to understand Africa and it was my opportunity to listen to true stories from people of Africa. It was an extraordinary experience that cannot be exchanged for anything in the world. It was a beautiful dream that I never wanted to wake up. I have met wonderful people and the relationships that I built there are unforgettable. A lot of people have inspired me, the beauty of African nature has mesmerized me, and the spirits have preached me.

While I was in Tanzania, I learned how to haggle properly with the locals, especially with Bajaj (three-wheel taxi) drivers. My friend, Kei and I could almost get the ‘local price’ frequently. For those who never haggled, they paid about twice as much as we did. Most of us international students learned broken Swahili and we instantly adapt it to negotiate with the locals everywhere we went. I thought I was setting a reasonable price for other foreigners so that they can be treated equally. I thought I was advocating the concept of equality to the locals, explaining all humans should be treated equally.

Looking back, that was a mistake. I applied ‘equality’ in a wrong way. I said I wanted to help out people in Africa, yet I tried so hard to give as less as I could. I thought I was fighting against ‘bad’ Tanzanians who are trying to take advantage of foreigners. At the end of the day, they are probably the people who need supports the most. It made me think about impartiality, one of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s principles. Everyone has his or her own stories. I don’t know what’s going on with the bajaj drivers’ lives and what they have to go through. I tried to fight them and judged them when I only encountered with their ‘drivers’ side from them. It was their attempts to fight against their daily needs. Trying their best is not enough for them. It’s extremely hard for them to escape from their usual struggling lives. Those facts and the reality have made them act in certain ways including taking advantages of foreigners. I felt sorry for them but I was jealous of them after I realized their purity and genuineness. It’s the genuineness of them trying their best for their survival. It’s the genuineness that makes almost every Tanzanians call me ‘Mchina (Chinese),’ not because they want to insult me, but because they really don’t bother to think about. It’s the genuineness when my friend could get her passports, credit cards, cell phone, and some Taxi money when she got robbed. It’s that genuineness that saved my life when I had a machete put on my neck.

I promised myself I will do my best to keep this genuineness.

I learned a lot from their mindsets, life styles, and people there and I owe them. If I pay back, we are even. We are equal. No one is more valuable than the other’s. No men should on the men and no men should under the men. When it comes down saving humanity in Africa, I would call it as “team-working with them” rather than “helping them.” Sometimes my fellow neighbors around the world will struggle for a while, for 10 years, alas even for more than 100 years. But hey, who knows, in 500 years, the world could be a different world with whole new structures. At that moment, my nation might need supports from the nations that I’m team-working with right now. The world is one team and everyone is equal. Let us not be blinded and fooled by the system that us humans have created. See through the world and judge yourself what’s right and what’s wrong. You have your freedom and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Assignment 4 – Corruption Can Happen

When you take a look at our Congress, President, Judges, and other elected offcials, you assumes that in the United States, these people were fairly elected and represent the majority of the electorate. While we live in a country that prides itself on corruption free values, we must realize that corruption does exist in this country. According to, the United States ranks as the 19th least corrupt nation in the world, just behind the United Kingdom. And we thought we were the most just nation in the world… (As a matter of scale, Denmark ranks 1st with a score of 90, while Russia ranks  133rd with a score of 28.)

So what does that mean in terms of humanitarian aid? It means that certain nation will be subject to our aid more than others. It means that more NGO’s will be given preferential treatment (at a cost, be it monetary or positional) on where and what of their aid is given. If Company X only wants its aid to go to Sudan and will raise hell until it is agreed to, it is more likely for that to happen than in Denmark where corruption isn’t as prevalent.

Going back to Linda Polman’s book, War Games/The Crisis Caravan, she argues that the way humanitarian aid is given is so important. The way in which the aid is given can affect any region. Just look at Afghanistan. After President Obama decided to withdraw troops from the embattled country, the aid dried up and Afgahni’s were left wondering who would pay for the rebuilding of their country.


This begs the question: If you cannot give aid correctly, should you give aid at all? This is a complex question because while we undoubtedly ridded Afghanistan of a terrorist harboring regime in the Taliban (or so we believe), it can be argued that the country we are leaving behind is no better than when we found it.

What does it take to turn a corrupt, aid-needing nation into a successful, self-sustaining, free one? It takes blood and sweat. Look at Egypt. They are entering there second revolution in two years, all for the sake of getting the way of governance right. As horrible as the pictures we get from the embattled country, there tell the painful, but true story of a country figuring out how to get it right.

Im just a 24 year old American who is being asked of his opinion on essential how messed up the world can be. If I can see the corrupt, hypocritical, and tyrannical ways in which the world behaves, certainly my peers and fellow Americans can as well. It is up to us to change this and expand the idea of global citizenship in order for everyone to have their say.



Works Cited

Anderson, Ben. “This Is What Winning Looks Like – Part 1.” VICE. N.p., June 2013. Web. 04 July 2013.
“Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 View Results Table View Brochure.” 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. N.p., 2012. Web. 04 July 2013.
Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.



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Another’s Perspective


Ethnocentrism is an uncomfortable subject to broach for many involved in the humanitarian aid industry; it’s a subject that touches on culture, privilege and race extensively.  The difficulty of judging a foreign culture by your own standards presents a multitude of problems.   Different situations, beliefs and histories make it extremely difficult for an outsider to fully understand the depth and scope of foreign situations.


Often times Western cultures overlook many of factors that are necessary for long-term, sustainable success in Africa.  These are things like democracy and legal systems, which are structures many Westerners may take for granted.  This isn’t some callous oversight by the majority of Western humanitarians, but its emblematic of a careless way of thinking that needs to change.  Often times we believe we know the entire situation and how to fix it, yet that’s rarely the case.  It’s a form of hubris that actually serves to alleviate those the aid was meant to serve in the first place.  For example, Teju Cole writes, “He does not connect the dots or see the patterns of power behind the isolated “disasters.” All he sees are hungry mouths, and he, in his own advocacy-by-journalism way, is putting food in those mouths as fast as he can. All he sees is need, and he sees no need to reason out the need for the need” (Cole).  Western humanitarians see the obvious symptoms, but fail to realize the underlying problems.


While most ignorance isn’t malicious, many organizations don’t address these underlying problems because they aren’t as tangible, quick to “solve” or apparent to their donor base.  We, as global humanitarians, need to demand more from our aid groups.  The popular issue isn’t always the one that needs the most attention.  If we truly desire to help those in need, then we should plan for the long-term.  The quick fixes that stimulate donors but don’t resolve the issue need to be eschewed for actual solutions.  Technology gives us access to more information than ever before, so we can no longer use ignorance of an excuse; the current form of aid fails to address the real problems.


The most important way to fix the disconnect between the “is” and “ought” of humanitarian aid operations is to work intimately with the local peoples.  Many INGOs claim they foster cooperation and value local opinions, but that’s often just window dressing for donors.  Linda Polman in The Crisis Caravan writes about how Western workers live separately from the locals, isolate themselves with foreign technology and generally don’t embrace the culture.  The higher ups in the aid organizations may hear what the local concerns are, but they don’t listen to them.  We need to stop this ethnocentric way of thinking and consider that we actually don’t always have the perfect solutions.  Westerners, as outsiders, have trouble seeing the big picture.  Cole writes, “There are serious problems of governance, of infrastructure, of democracy, and of law and order. These problems are neither simple in themselves nor are they reducible to slogans. Such problems are both intricate and intensely local” (Cole).   Aid workers haven’t lived in these areas their entire lives, they don’t know the biggest fears, wants and needs of the local population.  At arms length many issues may appear differently, and we need to close that gap and embrace local opinion.



Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. March 21, 2012. Web. July 4, 2013.

Easterly, William. “The White Man’s Burden.” The New York Review of Books. January 2007. Web. July 4, 2013.

Polman, Linda. The Crisis Caravan. Viking, 2010. Print.


Posted in Assignment 5 | 1 Comment

A.Nicot – Final: Power Africa

President Obama,

Your initiative to provide power to Africa, aptly if uncreatively named “Power Africa,” has raised in my mind a few concerns concerning your approach to the evident problem of undeveloped energy infrastructure on the African continent. Firstly, I note in your “factsheet” on the project that you present on the White House website that there is a definite focus on private sector development of this problem. I acknowledge the heavy role (7 billion dollars worth of financial support) that the U.S. government and its dependent corporations will be playing in this initiative, but private corporations will be providing most of the financing (9 billion dollars worth), notably using their own technology and their own methods of financing various projects.

For example, does General Electric’s specific goal to bring 5,000 megawatts of new, affordable energy” to two countries, Tanzania and Ghana, not leave them a considerable leeway to invest in a variety of things which could ensure a future profitable market in these countries, especially if they bring and use their own technology and methods, and expert staff. Doesn’t the African Finance Corporation, a South African state-owned mining company, have specific interests of its own to “invest $250 million in the power sectors of Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria,” besides what is mentioned as a “catalyst” of investment into sub-Saharan power infrastructure?

President Obama, it doesn’t seem like the concept as you present it leaves much room for transparency of how these investments are conducted, instead laying the issue of accountability squarely at the feet of African governments, admittedly corrupt and in many ways dysfunctional. Yes, African states need to ensure that the money earned from these ventures and the power generated is used for the benefit of their peoples – this is why the state exists if it participates in energy projects such as this – but should not the contributing members of this project, private AND American government-related, also be held accountable for their role? Will we see exactly how the American government intends to spend its money? “[providing] $285 million in technical assistance, grants and risk mitigation to advance private sector energy transactions and help governments adopt and implement the policy, regulatory, and other reforms necessary to attract private sector investment in the energy and power sectors,” could really mean a lot of things considering the vague outline presented in the sentence. Also it’s focus seems on attracting the private sector. A sound strategy perhaps, but would these private investors be largely American corporations and organizations?

Nothing i international politics is given for free, and it’s obvious the American government is primarily seeking in Africa the development of markets for its own exploitation purposes. It was done in Europe from 1918 onwards, it was done in Asia (along with Europe) to force open the Orient in the 19th Century, and it was done in Latin America as well throughout the Cold War. There is not much shame in trying to carry American economic interests, be they at the detriment even of local people, but one would appreciate either an allusion to this or if you’d be so bold, a comment on how this would not be the case. Pretending a mission is purely humanitarian does not befit a government of the stature of the U.S.A.’s.

Yours respectfully etc.

Aurelien Nicot

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Obama’s Power Play look at satellite imagery of the world at night is all you need to realize that Africa simply does not have enough access to power.  A study by The World Bank states that “the region has adequate generation capacity, limited electrification, low power consumption, unreliable services, and high costs. It also faces a power sector financing gap on the order of $21 billion a year. It spends only about a quarter of what it needs to spend on power, much of this on operating expenditure required to run the continent’s high-cost power systems, leaving little for the huge investments needed to provide a long-term solution.” (Eberhard, Rosnes, Shkaratan, Vennemo)  While some question its motives, President Obama’s new initiative Power Africa is exactly that.  With $ billion dollars being pledged by the federal government and $9 billion coming from the private sector, this plan aims to double the power capacity of sub-Saharan Africa.

“Ultimately the goal here is for Africa to Africa for Africans.”  This is the tag line Obama used in Tanzania to sell this new project (BBC).  And by all accounts, it seems that is exactly what Power Africa looks to do.  Aside from billions allocated for the creation and operation of large scale coal and gas plants, there is also a portion of money being set aside for the development of mini and off grid energy solutions.  These include “grants of up to $100,000 to African-owned and operated enterprises to develop or expand the use of proven technologies for off-grid electricity benefiting rural and marginal populations,” as well as the installation of small biomass generators the provide power for small communities (Power Africa).  These local power solutions are particularly helpful as they give the power over power to communities.  This in turn empowers the community to come together behind other projects and cuts out any potential governmental interference that could result in inefficiency.

While decentralized power solutions can provide massive relief to outlying communities, the focus should be on long term solutions.  The study by The World Bank goes on to say that “economic returns to investments in cross-border transmission are particularly high. But reaping the promise of regional trade depends on a handful of major exporting countries raising the large volumes of finance needed to develop generation capacity for export.” (Eberhard, Rosnes, Shkaratan, Vennemo)  Whats great is that African investors are starting to realize this.   Nigerian businessman Tony Elumelu is backing Power Africa with $2.5 billion.  He believes that the energy market has huge potential and is getting behind it.  This kind of African investment in Africa is exactly what Power Africa hopes to facilitate and is what needs to happen for sustainable long term development (Jorgic).

Now Power Africa is certainly not without critics.  Many have called this the new face of imperialism, citing a recent increase in Chinese aid to the region as the reason for Americas sudden push.  Others still accuse the government of trying to exploit Africa’s natural resources.  This all rests on the notion that any benefit gained from the aid providing country is wrong, that we must be completely altruistic.  But so what if we gain from creating a more stable Africa?  Obama has gone on record saying that “Frankly, we don’t need energy from Africa,” with many analysts saying he is going for a more Brazil style of investment.  By improving the economy in one area you create a new market for your own nations goods, in turn strengthening the global economy (Business Daily).  “We are looking at a new model that’s based not just on aid and assistance but on trade and partnership,” said the president during his Tanzania speech.  Traditional development efforts usually involve throwing money at a problem.  By taking this guided approach that looks to bring local governments into the fold we can see a new model of aid approaching that is far more sustainable in the long term.  The bottom line is that money makes the world go round.  By ensuring multiple sides gain from economic development we are ensuring that more aid will be provided in the future and that what is spent is spent effectively.  I have high hopes for Power Africa and think it will surely lead to a brighter future.

Works Cited
Eberhard, Anton, Orvik Rosnes, Maria Shkaratan, and Hakon Vennemo. “Africa’s Power Infrastructure.” World Bank ELibrary. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.
“FACT SHEET: Power Africa.” The White House. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.
Jorgic, Drazen. “Obama’s Power Africa Backer Calls Weak Competition an Investment Incentive.” N.p., n.d. Web. 03 July 2013.
“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 03 July 2013.
Stoddard, Ed. “Business Day LIVE.” Business Day Live. N.p., 2 July 2013. Web. 03 July 2013.
Posted in Final | 21 Comments

Dear Obama Administration

An Open Letter to the Obama Administration

On June 30th, the Obama administration announced the “Power Africa” initiative. This initiative plans to “double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa “(“Fact Sheet”) by committing “more than $7 billion in financial support over the next five years” (“Fact Sheet”). The goal of this mission was to bring power to connect their people to the promise of the 21st century (“Africa”). This initiative promises “access to electricity that is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by; the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business “(“Africa”).
On the surface, this initiative looks and sounds good, very similar to many humanitarian aid organization projects. However, as in War Games and Emergency Sex, we learn that decisions are not always as they appear on the surface. In order to get a true picture of the situation and determine if any ulterior motives might exist, we must be willing to research and dig.

Just days before the announcement of this initiative, Obama appeared in Johannesburg in front of a town meeting. In this meeting, he praised former South African President Nelson Mandela, spoke of the bright future of Africa’s economy, provided a warning in the fight against terrorism, discussed America’s ambitions, and discussed the issue of global warming. It seems as though his trip and speech in Africa served as a propaganda campaign leading into the announcement. This reinforces the thought that this initiative has a much deeper undertone than simply helping a developing nation or providing humanitarian aid. What are the underlying undertones that can be learned from his speech in combination with this initiative? Let’s take a look.

The first thing that stood out was the fact that this speech mentioned global warming. This discussion referred to carbon emissions as a reason for the world’s climate change. Why are we discussing carbon emissions with other countries? The US is biggest reason for non-environmental carbon emission. While we have made strides in reducing our carbon footprint, we must look to the US first in improving this. It appears as the pot calling the kettle black when we go around and outwardly warn countries about vehicles and air conditioners and carbon emissions. This just seems like a point that could be discussed on a different platform and involve our progress as opposed to putting it off on a developing country. It seemed almost like this point was discussed in an attempt to be a preface for “clean energy” and go along with the initiative.

A second point that stood out was the praise that Obama expressed about former South African President Nelson Mandela. Mandela is widely recognized as the “founding father of the country’s modern democracy” (Wikipedia) .In Emergency Sex, we learn more about the effort that was provided from humanitarian aid organizations and the US in implementing a vote to overthrow the current government in Cambodia with the hopes of converting them to democracy. Could this visit and initiative have a political agenda? Recently, China has been seen making a presence in Africa. China is classified as communist state (“The World Factbook”). The initiative is neglecting the non-sub-Saharan countries, which are considered part of the Arab world (Wikipedia). These facts show that there does appear to be political reasons for this initiative and also discredits Obama’s praise of Mandela in his speech.

The third point that stood out was the discussion of Africa’s economy. Businesses in Africa already exist, are successful, and prosper on their current available power. The initiative looks to bolster this by doubling the access to power, but is this what Africa wants? A lot of the land in Africa consists of desert, rain forests, and plains. Many of the people that inhabit these areas are tribes and native people who would not benefit from this initiative. Is America pushing our ideology of what the world should be in the 21st century on other countries? It would appear as though we are pushing our modern traditions and ideals on people whose day to day lives differ than ours.

The last point that stood out was the fact that Obama stated that this was not an attempt to expand military reach and brought issue up of terrorism up. In the Eyes of Others, we learned about the problems that can arise when humanitarian aid workers are unable to be identified in aid situations. This initiative provides aid to Africa, in a different form, but because of the possible political reasons that exist, can lead to the misidentification of the African people as targets.

While this initiative outwardly appears as a feel good, look at America helping another developing country story, it does have its ulterior motives. The easiest motive to point out is the political one. The hope of finding an ally in the fight on terror can lead to the targeting of not only the Americans helping in this initiative, but can also put the people of Africa at risk. This initiative doesn’t address the real issue of if this is actually what Africa needs. This initiatives main purpose is to improve the future of the people of Africa. How much will they prosper from this future if they still do not have access to medicines or vaccines? Will there be a future if there are more pressing needs that $7 billion could be applied to, but are neglected to achieve an American goal?

It is understandable, logical, and rational to enter into any situation with ulterior motives. It is also naïve to think that everything in running the government is black and white. Someone not directly involved with the government, without knowledge of exact foreign policies, or the volatility of those relationships can easily be dismissed. However, the most basic of questions is ignored by this initiative, and in many aid efforts. Is this what these people need or is it what we want to them to have? Does this serve in their best interest or in ours?

Chris Dove
Elon University Student

Works Cited:

Abu-Sada, Caroline. In the Eyes of Others. United States: MSF-USA, n.d. Print.

“Africa: Obama Promises U.S. $7 Billion Investment in Power Grids.” AllAfrica. AllAfrica, 01 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Karimi, Faith, and Matt Smith. “Obama Pledges $7 Billion to Upgrade Power in Africa.” CNN. CNN, 30 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

“Obama Backs ‘new Model’ for Africa in Tanzania Speech.” BBC News. BBC, 01 July 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete (R) and US President Barack Obama met to discuss trade possibilities [AFP]. N.d. Photograph. AljazeeraWeb. 3 Jul 2013. <>.

The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Fact Sheet: Power Africa. The White House. N.p., 30 June 2013. Web. 02 July 2013. <>.

“The World Factbook.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 12 May 2013. Web. 3 Jul 2013. <>.

Posted in Assignments, Final | Comments Off on Dear Obama Administration

Open Letter to Barry O

Hey Barry,

Before I delve into my spiel on the humanitarian aid efforts of your administration and our country in general, I would like to point out something that you and I have in common. We are both Americans. So while you might be leader of the free world and a very powerful man, I am writing to you as one American to another.

Each year it seems that the United States looses ground to foreign countries in a variety of ways. Whether it be jobs, public esteem, or wars America is not the mighty nation of our grandfather’s days. Instead of trying desperately regain footing by passing bills through the traffic jam that is our Congress, or going on Goodwill trips to Africa, something radically different needs to be done in order to improve our relationship our global neighbors.

In Linda Polman’s book, War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, she points out how humanitarian aid can affect a population and its region if given improperly. While our country gives more aid than any, the way in which we do it doesn’t always work out the way we hoped. Examples of this include Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. So how do we solve this problem. Why is it that when ever we try to help somebody it backfires?

The problem lies in the American genetic code; our DNA. Since the Second World War, the United States has steadfastly believed that we are the answer to ills and conflicts around the world. In addition to that, with the current economic climate of our country, more effort should be focused on how to solve our problems before helping with other nations. I don’t see a future too bright where we cannot help support ourselves, let alone the other people of the globe.

In efforts like Power Africa, I do believe this will stimulate not only spending in our economy, but it will improve goodwill with African nations. Yet because of the  high corruption of the continent that you yourself speak of, how can we be sure our funding will not be stolen away by parasitic dictators and nations. In order for foreign projects that are Made in USA to succeed, we must be able to ensure that foreign corruption is not going to have its sticky little fingers on it.

As an American I will commend that your voice is different from your predecessors. You don’t puff out your chest and put your cowboy boots on the desk and dictate how the deal is going to go. You’re respectful, listening to all parties, then making a decision.

You have until January 20th, 2017 to make a positive impact on this world. There are many issues and conflicts that you will not be able to solve simply due to the number. But if you can make this country as well liked as it was 60 years ago and while maintaining a high standard of living, you have succeeded. You will have taken care of people outside our borders as well as within. You are my President, I support you 100%. But it is time for a change.




Works Cited

Kumar, Anita. “Bee Nation/World News.” The Sacramento Bee. N.p., 1 July 2013. Web. 03 July 2013.
“Obama’s Africa Trip Will Cost Taxpayers $100 Mln – RT USA.” Obama’s Africa Trip Will Cost Taxpayers $100 Mln – RT USA. N.p., 25 June 2013. Web. 03 July 2013.
Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.


Posted in Final | Comments Off on Open Letter to Barry O