Youth needed in bridging of nations


The Appalachian Online

Paige Anderholm

On July 20, a flag flew over the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. for the first time in 54 years. Not even one month before had I been in Havana walking past the old U.S. Embassy as it still sat empty.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of the forward movement between our two countries stating, “Nothing is more futile than trying to live in the past. We’re taking a historic and long overdue step in the right direction.”

Two months have passed and we are seeing more and more hope come out of the communist country.

Pope Francis arrived in Havana on Saturday and was able to celebrate mass in Revolution Square as the crowd of thousands was framed by an odd juxtaposition of the ionic sculpture of Che and a large image of Jesus. During his homily, the Pope spoke of service in a sense that we should “care for one another” rather than serve ideology.

Though the third papal visit to the island in two decades, Francis’ visit is still a milestone in history. His role in the December announcement of eased diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba was crucial.

The Latin American pope called the increasingly thawing ties, “an example of reconciliation for the whole world.”

Though the visit is viewed in high hopes throughout the world, it cannot be forgotten that Pope John Paul II visited the nation in 1998 during the end of the Special Period. The trip evoked similar feelings of hope but little tangible change came from it.

Following his four days in Cuba, the pope will travel to the U.S. and end his tour in Philadelphia. But before that, Francis will meet with President Obama just as he is meeting with Fidel and Raul Castro. No doubt will the topic of increased national relations come up.

As the auxiliary bishop of Havana, Juan de Dios Henandez, puts it, “Pope Francis became a bridge between President Obama and Raul Castro… He moves with the only objective he has: to unite peoples, build bridges and break with realities that belong in the past.”

I hope the conversation between our countries continues, as we have much to learn from each other. But this mending cannot occur without help from the youth of both countries. We must remember that a lot occurs outside of the little valley that Boone sits in.

Though we had stopped interacting with Cuba, the rest of the world kept spinning. It’s time we start again.

Anderholm, a sophomore geology major from Greensboro, is an opinion writer.