I believe in the power of the dreams that people cherish in their hearts. A great and beautiful dream makes a person great and beautiful. Just as individuals have dreams and corporations have dreams, a country must have a dream and humankind also has to have a dream. Dreams turn wandering into adventure, change apathy into passion, and bring separated hearts together as one.
It has been 16 years since all of the Earth Humans ushered in the new millennium with fire in their hearts. The world we’re living in, however, is growing increasingly distant from hope and happiness. With problems that include military disputes over national borders, economic turmoil, and environmental issues that grow more serious with each passing day, there is deepening conflict and anxiety, and it is difficult to find new hope and vision.
No country can be seen taking on a genuine leadership role in this era. There is not a true model nation that shows, through the practice of its government and the lives of its citizens, how humankind should move forward. Though there are superpowers, there is not a true leading nation that regards as its business the peace and happiness of the earth and humankind as a whole, and gives this its concerted effort and consideration. They’re simply too busy negotiating and fighting just to be even a little better off than other countries; there is no country that dreams a great dream for the sake of humanity.
Where can we find new hope? Who will direct humankind toward a new dream and vision? What I’m suggesting now, is that the United States and the American citizens—we the People—rise to the occasion and fulfill this role and responsibility that humankind so desperately and urgently needs. And I propose that such a dream must be cherished and shared by at least 100 million Earth Citizens.
It’s hard to become the hope for humankind in this era right now with economic power or the power of national defense alone. If America truly intends to inspire and set the example for humankind, we must have a philosophy and vision, and we have to show it concretely through the aspect of our daily lives as we make actual contributions to the earth and humankind.
People don’t want to be the only ones to have a nice life, they have the desire to look after and help others as they make everyone happy. In my native country of Korea, we refer to this mindset as “Hongik.” I believe that the diverse traditions and cultures of humanity are infused with this spirit of Hongik.
The fastest way to bring about real change to the earth is for every member of humankind to recover the true human spirit that lives in their heart. America was established on a foundation of creativity and a pioneering spirit, as well as the values of freedom, justice, and equality. The US has the greatest global influence politically, economically, culturally, and environmentally, and as such, we have the responsibility to accept that we must be the center of the Earth Citizen Movement. Just as America has been at the forefront of the development of material civilization thus far, it is now time for us to support the pioneering and creation of a harmonious and peaceful new spiritual civilization.
On a foundation of true human spirit, America must now rise up with the great dream of unfolding a new future for the earth together. This dream must go beyond the level of protecting the national interests of the US alone to developing a great spirit and movement that inspires people to feel limitless responsibility for the earth and humankind. Rather than regarding ourselves as a member of only one country, we must think of ourselves as Earth Citizens who practice true love for the earth and love for humankind; that is the Earth Citizen Movement that must spread.
The Earth Citizen Movement awakens the true human spirit in all people. It’s a movement for recovering natural healing power to create one’s own health and happiness and to live a life of actualizing the beautiful and noble qualities that human beings possess. It’s a movement that promotes finding one’s dream and value, and pursuing harmony and the actualization of internal value over competition and external growth, in order to create a healthy and sustainable earth. This kind of movement must take place through individuals, families, schools, workplaces, and all areas of society. There must be 100 million people who have the Earth Citizen spirit by the year 2020 in order for human civilization to be able to make the shift from destruction to hope at the crossroads where we stand.
I spent my youth lost and wandering until I found the value of my life 35 years ago. That’s when I had the enlightenment that my true value lies in living the life of a Hongik human. Since then, I have given deep consideration to how I could deliver the spirit of the Hongik human to many people. The fastest way is education, and although it occurred to me that a school would be needed in order to educate, I didn’t have any kind of foundation at the time. I had neither money, nor knowledge, social status, or people to work with me. I didn’t even have any certifications that would qualify me for the governmental recognition that was necessary for establishing a school.
So what I did was to go out to the park early in the morning and start meeting people, and I started leading free classes at the park, which I could do without official acknowledgment from the government. The training that I provided at that time was developed and established as a mind-body training method called Dahnhak, and five years later, the first Dahnhak Center came to be. After that, Dahnhak went through a process of being developed into a science and into a field of study and evolved into Brain Education, and a university and graduate university were developed for the purpose of cultivating Earth Citizen leaders.
About 20 years ago, I began activities in the US to share the Hongik spirit with the whole world. I have also been engaged in diverse international work in conjunction with the UN through the International Brain Education Association (IBREA). I still remember vividly how full my heart was and the tremendous sense of mission I felt when I offered the “Prayer of Peace” at the UN Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in the year 2000 as I concluded my prayer with “Hongik Ingan, Ehwa Segye,” or "widely benefitting human, harmonious world."
With the idea of creating a school that centered education on character and Hongik, after ten years of preparation, four years ago, I founded the Benjamin School for Character Education. The name of this school hails from one of America’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. He was an exemplary figure who set the completion of his character as the objective of his life and practiced Hongik throughout his lifetime.
The Benjamin School for Character Education does not have five elements—a school building, teachers, textbooks, homework, or tests. What this gap-year school of alternative education has instead is a mentor group composed of 500 people from every field and all walks of life. One of the essential components of the school curriculum involves having the students designate a project with which to challenge themselves during the course of the year, something that they wanted to try no matter what, and completing that project. Through this process, students who used to be timid recover their self-confidence and sense of self-worth, squaring their shoulders as they do so; students who could only think of themselves grow into Hongik humans who are thoughtful and take care of others. Every time I see the children changing like this, I feel that there really is hope for humankind.
The Benjamin School for Character Education started out in the beginning with a single student and had an enrollment of 27 students the next year, followed by 487 students the year after that. This year, we expect the admission of 1000 students for the third term. Although at first, there were many people who looked with doubt at this school that doesn’t even have tests or homework, now, the Benjamin School for Character Education has won the active support of many students and their parents, as well as educators.
An increase in the number of people who have true human spirit is the way to prepare new hope for humankind. Spirit does not end as spirit. When spirit gathers, energy forms and matter forms. In the same way, when the minds and hearts of those who are sincerely concerned for the future of the earth and of humankind come together, we can make truly great accomplishments.
Every school on earth must cultivate Earth Citizens, every family must raise Earth Citizens, and the goal of every workplace, social group, discipline, country, and the UN must be to strive toward recovering the beauty of the earth’s natural environment, reviving human character, and establishing human peace. If a great and beautiful revolution of consciousness that would develop Earth Citizens, who go beyond their individual and selfish consciousness to be helpful to human beings and the world, could arise in a huge way in the year 2016, it would be a miracle and a joy that would long be remembered throughout human history.
I hope with all my heart that many people will participate in this historic effort to create human peace. I hope that five years from now, in the year 2020, we can look on together as a new Earth Village is born through the power of 100 million Earth Citizens.