Celebrate Global Advocacy


Today is World Humanitarian Day, declared by the United Nations in 2008, to give

tribute to ones who died in the 2003 bombing of the U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad.

On that day, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq was killed,

Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others who were not in any military personnel duty,

but were public servants. These ‘voiceless victims” gave up their lives. This honors

all those who are negotiators, compromisers, and humanitarians who chose such lofty

goals as World Peace as part of their life’s purpose.


World Humanitarian Day, August 19th,  is a wonderful result of collaboration

between countries. The country where Sergio Vieira de Mello originated, Brazil,

along with Switzerland, France and Japan helped to steer, then ‘table’ the draft

of the resolution. International foundations worked tirelessly to promote this

and it came about six years ago.


Donations, to UNICEF, an organization that has Sudan at the top of their ‘needy’

countries’  list are welcome. They ask this to be done in honor of this celebration

for the victims of crimes against humanitarians and their families.


A meaningful expression that I found while looking this up was:

“Light up your map” by supporting and sending money to UNICEF, with “our global

advocates” in mind.


Humanitarian. What an inspiring and amazing kind of person.


I hope this post will encompass this theme, along with including my own

observations and something recently discussed among my grandchildren.

After we watched Fievel, in his original role in the animated children’s film

from 1986, my grandsons were talkative. Lots of subjects came out of this

movie, my introduction to the fact that they had immigrants in their family

tree, from my side of the family, (their mother’s side) from Germany, Sweden,

Scotland and England. Then, one of the two boys, has African as one fourth

of his blood, while the other boy has many overlapping countries from his

Daddy’s and Mommy’s sides, of the German, Swede, Scot and English tribes.

While we were happily going all over the subject, they mentioned that their

Mimi and Poppy had the song, “Somewhere Out There,” as part of their wedding

music. This is the theme song from the movie, “An American Tail.”

In my oldest grandson’s memory, he came up with “Coming to America,” as a

song he had learned from his music teacher at school. I was amazed, that he put

these two songs together. Since this song is also about immigration. I mentioned

that it is one of my all-time favorite songs, sung by Neil Diamond.

They, of course, said, “Who?”

I didn’t even try to get them to recall who he was, since that would mean a whole

other discussion.

Just for your information, this song came out before, “An American Tail,” the

children’s film about immigration. “Coming to America,” was on the soundtrack

for the movie and album, “The Jazz Singer” (1980). The album’s hit single, made it

to the top of the charts, in 1981, making Diamond’s sixth ‘hit single’ at the time.

The theme of the song is to embrace the history of immigration, starting from

the 1900’s up until today. Interestingly, one of the lyrics’ passages includes his

repeating, “They’re coming to America… Today! They’re coming to America…”

When Neil Diamond performs this song live, he substitutes this audience

participation phrase, “Stand up for America… Today! Stand up for America…”


When we talked about their own heritage, my oldest grandson asked why is it

that he had overheard this question while recently at the zoo,

“Why don’t people talk English? If they can’t talk English, they should go back

to where they came from!”

I was looking at him, hoping and praying he would not reveal that it was

anyone he knew that said these rather ‘hateful’ words.

The next thing Sky said surprised me. He had apparently been thinking for some time

about the comments. This was only two weeks’ ago, when his parents had taken both

boys for an employee appreciation day at Zoombezi Bay, part of the Columbus Zoo.

Skyler said, “If people feel more comfortable talking to each other, then it should

be okay to use their country’s language, don’t you think, Nana?”

I smiled and said,

“My Filipino friends talk English with their spouses and almost always with

their children, too. But you know Felda and her two children, Kridia Dawn

and Zachary?”

The boys looked serious and nodded.

The youngest one piped up,

“Maybe they like to hear their Mommy speak her language if she sings songs.”

(Felda does have a beautiful voice, they had heard it at one of their many parties,

because part of the ‘games’ is to sing karaoke, adults and children, too.)

“Exactly! Good job, Micah!” I exclaimed.

I continued to explain why my good Filipino friends use their ‘homeland’s


“Felda wants her kids to know what her language was, so they will recognize

some words, each time they travel back to see their grandmother there in the


Skyler got pensive again, my ‘serious thinker!’

“I am so glad you live close to us. By speaking Filipino with their grandma,

this would make her so happy, wouldn’t it? Do they talk on the phone or

Skype with her?”

I think my grandkids are all so ‘tech-savvy’ I forget about this new ‘age’ stuff.

“Yes, I am sure they do. But I will ask about this, I have seen them Skype at

work, for Felda’s or Mary Jane’s mother’s birthday together. I don’t know why

they would not Skype with the children to see her and share with her, at home.”

I was winding down on this subject and added this comment,

“They sit separately at work, while eating lunch and on their breaks, to

chatter happily and quickly about their personal lives.”

Skyler mentioned that it would be ‘cool’ to be able to have a hidden spy code

language, to talk to your friends in.

I agreed,

“So, when people say these things, I think they may be misunderstanding why

the ones who are using another language are doing this. A different reason may

be,  they are overhearing visitors from another country or ‘foreigners.’ Just like

we like to travel, someday I hope you will go to another country. You may wish to

use the language of that country but you may look for someone who understands

English. When foreigners visit, they seek out our cultural places, like museums

and zoos. Sometimes, there is no one who knows their language but there are

special headphones and language tapes, to help them to understand what they

are seeing. ”


It was funny how Micah was taking this all in, which is unusual. He interrupted

my final statement to interject,

“What do you think about when people ask me if my Daddy is a terrorist? Are

they trying to be funny? It makes him so mad!”

Micah’s Daddy’s father is black. For some reason, even when he wears his hair

in an ‘afro’ or braids, people think he looks like someone from Iraq or Iran. I

tried not to smile because he’s made some jokes about trying to go to the airport

and being held back, if he were ever wishing to travel internationally. He will use

a Robert Kline kind of comment, “I just picture the guards taking me down, then

I am lying on the floor using my Ohio accent, telling them I was born here!” I know

he doesn’t think it is funny and under the comic words, he is hiding his pain.

“It is not meant as an insult. If anything, the best way to answer people about

this, is to say, “Of course not! That’s my Daddy!”

I also told Micah that being able to see humor in such things and make light of

them, will carry him far in life.


Skyler summed this all up in one fantastic phrase, which he admits may have

come from the children’s animated movie, “Tarzan:”

“They are part of us. We are part of them.”


Referring to the song Phil Collins wrote for “Tarzan” (1999):

“You’ll Be in My Heart.”

“Why can’t they understand the way we feel?”

(The gorilla mother singing to human baby, Tarzan)

“They just don’t trust what they can’t explain.

I know we’re different but deep inside us,

We’re not that different at all.”



As far as language, it is true that~

I wish my Grandmother Mattson had taught me some German.

I wish my Grandfather had taught me some Swedish.

I watch that one television show, “Welcome to Sweden,” just to learn a few phrases.

I know my Dad learned a little Scottish and used a few phrases that are more ‘slang’

than anything else.


Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.”


Who do you consider a great humanitarian?

Do you feel we need to be more or less understanding to others, when it comes

to language barriers?

Be honest, we can learn from each other’s points of view.





12 responses »

  1. that is so right., robin. we learn from each other, and the more we learn, the less we fear, and see we have similarities. what a great day, i had no idea –

    • It would have been nice if somehow we could have celebrated this, instead of the Missouri mistakes on both sides, being made. I don’t think that the ones who are burning and looting are at all helping to promote the cause. Which is to give fair treatment and due process to people of all races. I think this over-shadowed our International Humanitarian Day, wishing we could all hug more and be like you said, Beth!

  2. Our common humanity is an important asset to building understanding with peoples of all lands — language is only a minor inconvenience with computers– the real hurdle is our willingness to see others as brothers . 🙂

    • I love the word, ‘brothers’ and also, my brother’s keeper, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother… Thanks, Chris for this positive remark! Have a great weekend, by the way! Hope no rain for any of your outdoor rides or plans!

      • I’m hoping that this beautiful weather keeps up for a couple more weeks— it’s been the coolest summer here that I ever remember.
        And I hope everything is groovy there for you !!!!! 🙂

      • Thanks, Chris! I love the word ‘groovy’ always makes me think of “Feelin’ Groovy,” song. I am sure we may have some warm days, but those cooler nights are heavenly!

  3. A great humanitarian? I know a lot of great people who do great works for people they don’t know. Time and energy volunteered to make someone else’s world a better place. I couldn’t begin to name them, I’m very blessed to know many.

    I never mind hearing other languages spoken around me. It makes sense to me that people speak their native language when they are with friends/family. I don’t think that entire countries should have to change their language to accommodate people who visit or move there. France is not expected to stop speaking French, Spain is not expected to stop speaking Spanish, English speaking countries should not be expected to stop speaking English. I wouldn’t want us to lose the colors of our different languages. I love hearing the different languages. But if anyone moves to a country that speaks a different language, while keeping their native language alive, I do think they should have that expectation they will need to learn their new country’s language.

    • I know one in my building who has lived a simple life for 25 years here. She has been retired for 15 and drives, visiting people while delivering “Meals on Wheels.” Her older car must be a ‘gas hog,’ but she continues. Her back is a little crooked, her walk eased with a cane, but her love for those people she considers, ‘elderly,’ is so amazing, Colleen!
      I am agreeing with your opinions on languages, too. People should learn the language of the country they live in. I think that my Grandmother did an excellent job of not ‘sounding’ German, while speaking English. My Grandpa knew English, along with Swedish, but did not share it with us. I wish he had! Smiles, Robin

  4. Good morning Robin (it is in this part of the world 🙂 – very interesting post, carefully observed conversations…it touches a core subject. I am the child of immigrants (my parents migrated within Europe), I live with a migrant coming from another continent and I have worked as an humanitarian for 10 years in different countries. I grew up learning 2 languages and 2 dialects – (which is, as science proofs very good for you – today they encourage migrant children to speak their own languages at home, because it enhances their capacity of the comprehension of other languages). Having understood as a child that there may be 4 different words for the same thing, it gave me the capacity to go on and learn more languages. And I am so grateful for that! Because today I am able to write poems in English, to speak in French with my partner, and to be able to express my needs in Italian when going to the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Languages bring down barriers. When I was living in India I took lessons in Hindi. Even if you only know a few words, it has an immense impact on the way people open up to you. Being able to see the diversity and the richness that comes with it brings understanding and hopefully peace between neighbours. I used to be and idealist (in one way I still am). But having worked in the humanitarian field I became also dissillusioned – with the capacity of humans to live peacefully together as well as with some organisations and their capacity to do anything about bringing peace and justice to this planet. But I believe in this: Teach your children and your grandchildren that diversity is richness and not the opposite…in that sense your post is a humanitarian contribution too !

    • Thank you so much for your real passion for learning languages and your wonderful way of explaining its meaning to all. I appreciate this so much, Eva! I also think it is very special how you did try to be a peaceful and just person, a true humanitarian, even despite your disillusionment along the way. I think it is hard to stay positive, but we must be strong in our collective soul. We all need to believe it is possible. Since there are still so many who are non-believers in the idea of world peace. If only we could see it happen, while my grandchildren are still alive. I am so honored with the last part of your comments. I have mentioned in a comment to Colleen of a beautiful giving woman in my apartment building. She is my example of a humanitarian. (I do believe that Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela and others are internationally respected. I like Jimmy Carter and have felt that he really tried, once he left the Presidency to be a negotiator and arbitrator for peace in many countries.) Thanks, Eva! Hugs, Robin

  5. Robin, you are a wonderful grandmother and your grandchildren are so lucky to have you!!! Having these conversations with your grandchildren and imparting your humanity and wisdom to them is beautiful! You are teaching them tolerance and respect for others native language and and a positive perspective. This kind of attitude about different cultures will bring richness and diversity to their lives!! Good job and I think you are a perfect example of a wonderful humanitarian!!

    Cathy x

    • Thanks, Cathy for such a wonderful ‘vote of confidence!’ I appreciate this and your understanding tolerance and respect through your words in these lovely comments. I am definitely interested in humanity but necessarily a humanitarian… It really means a lot that you said this, though! Hugs, Robin

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