Friendship – interesting word.
Its been around for a thousands of years, it’s going to be around for a thousands more. It’s been studied, discussed, debated for millennium in fields from communications, anthropology, psychology, and of course, philosophy.
In fact, the great philosopher Aristotle devoted a whole section of one of his greatest works to friendship. It’s been an art – poems, countless quotes about friendship, topics of movies, topics of books, and music. The Beatles, “get by with a little help from my friends”; Queen, “you’re my best friend”; Elton John, “when your friends are there then everything’s alright”; and even Toys’ Story, “you’ve got a friend in me”; and dozens dozens more, all with the goal of trying to define, trying to grasp the essence, the meaning of friendship. It’s no doubt a powerful, powerful word referred to as a flawless force for good.
Aristotle thought of true friendship as a virtue. It’s so deep, so meaningful, that it takes a number of other deep and meaningful words to describe it – caring, sympathy, honesty, trust, loyalty, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness.
And yet some today will say it’s lost its meaning. Are we now just friends because we’re connected on Facebook? You know a recent search I did of millennials and friendship yielded articles “Are millennials ruining the value of friendship?”, “Millennials, the loneliest generation”, and then “The complexities of friendship as a millennial”. Has friendship changed?
Friendship has not changed. And nor will it. It existed long before all of us were here, and it will exist long after we are here. It is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It has been referred to as the only cement that will hold the world together. That is the new horizon before us, a world connected through true friendships.
Earlier this year, we began a campaign called the Friendship Generation. We saw it as a generation of people who wanted to embrace the true meaning of friendship. A generation that is more connected, that is closer in so many ways, than generations before them, before you. And is learning day by day, how much we need each other.
We’re not here to redefine friendship, we just want to remind ourselves what it really means. We’re not talking about friending someone on Facebook, and it’s more than just being a friend to someone you know. This is about being a friend to humanity, about caring about humanity, being loyal to mankind, having sympathy for all human beings, being someone that humanity can trust. Our humanity, our humanness, is the one trait we all share.
At Friendship Ambassadors, friendship is part of our DNA, it’s been at the core of everything we have done for over forty years. Beginning with our ambassadors for friendship program in the 50s and the 60s where groups of young people from around the world toured thousands of miles around this country together. Kofi Annan was one of those individuals, a young person along with our founder. Then our choirs, we had at one time, dozens of professional choirs travelling around Eastern Europe using music as the medium, and friendship as the message. And now, 24 Youth Assemblies.
And with friendship as our foundation, we’re setting out our own new horizons. We want to go beyond the Youth Assemblies, and connect, educate, and help provide opportunities for positive action and impact year-round. We are planning a series of new initiatives that are going to try to help you all connect around the year 365 days a year, opportunities for you to learn, and educate, and develop year-round, and opportunities for you to make an impact year-round.
We are announcing our GAIN network at this conference, and I hope you will stop at our Action and Impact hub over the next two days, and learn about what GAIN is, our Global Action and Impact Network. This is in response to what you our delegates have asked for, you want to engage with likeminded young people, you want to learn, you want to grow, and most importantly you want to help make the world a better place, and you want to make an impact. This week can be your opportunity to do all of these.
There are new horizons for you out there this week. We’ve brought together an array of speakers, and panelists, and experts on the topics from climate change, human development, technology, peace, and many many more. Beginning with the evening speakers, we have Andy Raben, special adviser on global issues at the US State Department; Ami Dar, founder and CEO of Idealist, an organization all about connecting idealists, people who want to do good; and Shamill Idriss, CEO of Search for Common Ground, an organization dedicated to finding common ground whose principle is that humankind is interdependent. We are all in this together. Each of these individuals have devoted their lives, they are true friends of humanity.
Your takeaway, we hope: believe in the positive. Point yourself toward the positive and know that you are not alone. You do have friends. And that we can all be on a journey to develop a better world, one that kind, that is caring, that is loyal, that is trusting, and believes in a bright future for each and every human being on this planet.
You, the youth of the world, are the beginning of that future. You are the future. And that future is here, and it is now. And let it start with friendship.
This blog is an transcript of a speech delivered by Andrew Macdonald during the opening ceremony of the 24th Session of The Youth Assembly on August 8, 2019, at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.