This article is part of a conversation about the future of internationalism post-2016, featuring Thunderbird faculty and students. 
Disclaimer: The below article refers to the election from Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

By Das Tor

On Tuesday night, people around the world watched in stunned silence, in rage, or in celebration, as it became clear that Donald J. Trump would become President-Elect of the United States. The thing that nobody thought could ever happen, that the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked earlier this year as the sixth largest threat to global security, happened. Our predictive models and tools developed over the past decades in order to tell us what is likely to lie around the next corner failed us dramatically. In the new Age of the Unthinkable, nothing is true and everything is possible.

We do not wish to use this space to criticize the American electoral college, or to thrash against the results in denial. If anything, this clear and potentially dramatic change at the highest levels of government enacted at the grassroots is evidence of a healthy and functioning democracy. Instead, we wish to discuss what the choice of the American people means for the world in general, and for Thunderbird in particular.

Much of the rhetoric that has propelled Mr. Trump to victory is, objectively, rooted in xenophobia, extreme nationalism, and the rejection of a globalized world. This is not opinion; let us not forget (and how could we?) that Trump has vowed to literally wall this country off from the rest of the world. The term is frequently danced around for the sake of political correctness, but even Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton has gone so far as to call these beliefs by their true name: racism. This worldview has now been given a mandate to become institutionalized and bureaucratized. This is not, we think, a good thing to happen to a world already being driven apart by forces of tribalism and nationalism.

Much ink has been spilled connecting the rise of Donald Trump to the same sort of anti-globalist thinking which led to the vote in the United Kingdom to exit the European Union earlier this year.  There is a great deal of value in pursuing this logic. It is granted that there are valid criticisms to be made of liberal economic globalization, many of which are freely and openly confronted within the Thunderbird community. We have learned to handle the “flat world” claims of proponents of unrestrained interconnection with a degree of critical detachment. The truth is that integration and development are “spiky,” and the benefits have not been experienced uniformly throughout the world.

It is for this reason that it is dangerous to simply dismiss the beliefs of Mr. Trump and his supporters as racist or ignorant. The world has changed immeasurably over the past decades and continues to change at an exponentially quickening rate. Those who are fearful of or resistant to a change in the manner of living to which they are accustomed will go to great lengths to avoid such a change, as Tuesday’s results prove. But the election of Mr. Trump is not a healthy or responsible way to manage and mitigate the effects of these changes. The key to understanding and engineering the risk out of increasing global complexity is not to retreat into fear, hate, and isolationism; it is to maintain and perpetuate the foundational mission and function of Thunderbird: creating sustainable global prosperity through openness and interaction.

As both a product and a driver of economic and cultural globalization, Thunderbird has an obligation to remain a beacon of diversity and cooperation for the world. We call upon all members of the Thunderbird community – students, faculty, alumni – to repudiate any and all sentiments aimed at driving us apart because of the things that make us different from one another, and to fight this attitude in any situation in which it is encountered. A world growing increasingly divided presents us with unique challenges, and we must seek out new ways in which to bridge divides.

As we continuously meet and find creative solutions to these challenges, we can remember the words of President John F. Kennedy speaking about the need for a collective mindset of global unity if the human race is to continue to exist, mere months before his assassination:

“Let us not be blind to our differences–but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

The election of Donald Trump cannot, and will not, erase the progress that has been made toward the establishment of a peaceful, global society, for the bonds that unite us are far stronger than the forces seeking to break them.

And for those of you who stand for something that the American populace has voted against, we ask you to not lose hope. It might feel like Tuesday’s results indicate that your efforts have failed. They haven’t, for there now exists a firm oppositional base from which to reassess and re-strategize.

The only place to go from here is forward. Take a break, allow your frustration to dissipate, decide upon your next step, and then get back to it.

Your work, and the collective strengths and abilities of Thunderbird’s beautifully diverse community, are more important now than ever before.


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The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Thunderbird School of Global Management or Arizona State University as a whole.