On his final trip abroad while in office, President Obama visited Athens, Greece. In a short highlight video of the trip, he shares his thoughts on the benefits of travel.
“Ya know, one of the great joys of being a President is the ability to travel and to see different cultures and meet different people. That’s important for our national security but it is also important to us to understand ourselves and our place in the world.”
Important for the President, absolutely, but I also find it equally important for everyone. When we venture outside of our comfort zone to discover new places, not only do we learn so much about ourselves as we test our boundaries, but we learn from other people and cultures too. We learn different approaches to the same problems can all have successful outcomes. We learn that when you strip away our politics, our religion, or any label for that matter, we are more alike than we are different.
The President goes on to describe what it’s like to be standing at the Parthenon, the birthplace of democracy,
“It is here in Athens that so many of ideas about democracy, our notions of citizenship, our notions of rule of law began to develop. So when you visit a site like this, not only are you getting a better understanding of Greece and western culture but you are also sending a signal of the continuity that exist between what happened here, the speeches of Pericles and what happened with our founding fathers.”
There aren’t words to describe the incredible feeling of standing in a place filled with so much history. It is hard to fathom the years that stand between you and 447 BC when construction began on the Parthenon. Though, at the same time, it brings the history to life far greater than any history book ever could. I worked in educational travel for many years and was privileged to experience several of my own historical awakenings, but there was nothing better than seeing the students’ eyes light up at such places.
Travel allows us to engage with history and can teach us so much about where we have come from. It also allows us to engage with the here and now. Through it, we can truly learn the interconnectedness of humanity and how to work to understand each other to find solutions instead of conflict. It is this reason that I remain committed to encouraging everyone to travel as much as possible.