Teaching the Value of Failure Today

 

Teaching-the-Value-of-Failure-Today

Teaching the Value of Failure Today

No one starts out wanting to fail. In fact, owing to the achievement-oriented nature of our society, the prospect of failure is one most people cannot stand and definitely try to avoid at nearly all costs. Many will even trade potential big long-term successes for immediate gains just to evade short-term failures.

I would like to challenge this notion and pose the questions:

Is this the right approach? Is failure bad? Should we be putting forth every conceivable effort to avoid failure?

I firmly believe the answer is no. Having an “always learning, entrepreneurial mindset,” which includes appreciating and teaching the value of failure, are central elements of my work as a cultural catalyst and global keynote speaker for educators and young leaders. I have reinvented myself and my profession at least three times. When failures present themselves as they inevitably do, I play it SAFE: State the problem, Assess the options, Fix the problem, and Evaluate the result (part of my flight training, and from my most popular breakout topic, The Pilot Mindset). Treating failure as an option can be beneficial in many ways, as you’ll see below.

While failing can be painful, it turns out that failure is actually good for the mind and our overall well-being. Whether for an entrepreneur striving to grow a business, an athlete aiming to win an upcoming tournament, or a student trying out a new extracurricular, failing can not only strengthen your character but is, in most cases, a tremendously valuable way to learn what it takes to be successful.

Thomas Edison is one of the most celebrated innovators of the 18th century. Edison had to try over 1,000 times before finally coming up with a working prototype of the light bulb. But, according to Edison himself, he would not have been successful without the 1,000 failures, which were really just steps along the way to success. He noted that every failure opened his eyes to something new; something he didn’t know initially, and thus was valuable for the learnings it offered. This way, when he finally succeeded, the light bulb was far superior to the ones he had been trying to make early on.

In the educational environment, the importance of teaching the positives of failure can be very important in the overall development of students so that they can best interact and impact our world in a positive way tomorrow. Treating failure as an option can also be beneficial in these additional ways:

Students learn not to quit or settle when a failure occurs

After a few failures, and the realization that the world didn’t end, there is just no giving up going forward. Students will learn to push on, adapt, and move forward no matter what. By teaching students to learn from setbacks, we give them life skills that will serve them well.

Students refine character traits

A major failure can help refine the ego. And, once egos are more properly balanced with strength and also sensitivity, students have a greater potential for future successes and for positive contributions to society.  The young person who is shielded from failure is unprepared for a world of change, upheaval, and significant competition.

Students begin to appreciate a sense of community

It’s easy to get lost in success. As well, surviving failures on your own, again and again, is nearly impossible. It is often in failure where we learn a sense of community as others reach out to us and support us. It is in failing that we receiving support and open ourselves to a community, enabling us to then offer support and community to others in their moments of failure.

Failure forces students to plan and improve

Very often, students give little thought or planning to their journeys.  For those who do give some thought to their goals, the majority of those tend to do it casually. Failures take us back to the starting line, forcing us to have moments where there can be self-reflection, evaluation, and the opportunity to look ahead with a plan that improves upon and is impacted by the lessons learned in the failure. Getting a trophy for showing up--as the millennials did--needs to be rebalanced by instituting an acceptance and appetite for failure.

Failure helps students appreciate time

The most successful people on earth are those who understand the value of time and invest their time wisely. Failing is one of the experiences that force persons to re-evaluate their use of time. As well, how it relates to how it contributed to a failure.  Students can learn the value of working ahead, preparing for exams, and putting in the needed effort ahead to ensure they are prepared at the time needed.

Failure helps students redefine their priorities

When a student fails, something unique happens. Students begin to redefine what matters most. There is a deeper reflection that can occur.  They have an opportunity to pause and think about areas of importance such as family, studying, education, and teamwork. Failure helps them discover these values and priorities. Unsurprisingly, once priorities are redefined, the path to future successes becomes more much clear.

Final Thoughts

As educators, instead of sheltering our students from failures, we have to expose them to failures. As a result, help them to learn to focus on how these experiences can benefit their future. Whenever someone stumbles, rather than letting their spirits be crushed by the occasion, let us help them understand how energies can be channeled through disappointments. If we can begin to see failure as a valuable and necessary learning tool, we will empower a new generation to rise to the highest heights of their potential.

Learn more about my keynotes and topics here.

The Future Requires an Entrepreneurial Mindset

 

The-Future-Requires-an-Entrepreneurial-Mindset

The Future Requires an Entrepreneurial Mindset

People with an entrepreneurial mindset are driven to innovate and create new opportunities regardless of whether or not they are entrepreneurs or employees. With this mindset, one can also make a positive impact in the world at the same time. The focus on innovation and the possibilities of “what could be” drives entrepreneurs in business and life.

Many lack the entrepreneurial mindset, which at the core requires a growth mindset, the acceptance of failure as a learning process, and the intrinsic value of helping others.  It is my belief that an entrepreneurial mindset is the hope for our future and will create a better world, and today’s education system needs to be infused with these collective ideas.

A Focus On Innovation And Building A Better Future

A simple definition of innovation is that it is a new method, idea, or product. Innovation is the driving force through much of humankind’s accomplishments. This includes every area of knowledge including the sciences, mathematics, healthcare, technology, arts, and more.

Fear of failure prevents many innovations, both large and small, from occurring. No great innovator in human history did so without a few missteps, do-overs, and outright failures. If great innovators gave up after their first failure, they would not have changed the world. The ability to see failure as a chance to learn and do better drives further accomplishments which lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow.  So, how do we help students grasp this in the classrooms of today?

This mindset needs to be taught in our education systems. Millennial leaders will inspire the goal of helping the world become a better place through innovation and entrepreneurship, but education must support this by focusing not just on achievement, but also encouraging and embracing failure (i.e. taking calculated risks). I believe that with adjustments in our educational philosophy to encourage this mindset, a new generation can be unleashed to lead with a goal of creating new businesses, organizations, and systems that help the world.

The Consideration Of Possibilities

The entrepreneurial mindset focuses on possibilities. It considers “what could be.” The current notion of "this is how education is" does not foster a better future; it perpetuates stagnation.

A society that never considers how it can change is one that never does. By considering the possibilities and striving to create positive change, we take the first step toward making change possible.   

Inclusiveness

Recognizing the unique talents and insights of each student is an essential part of building a better future.

Paying it forward and sharing your own good fortune drives further innovation. The entrepreneurial mindset not only fosters the ideas of inclusiveness, it also helps build a future where such ideas are further implemented.

It is this kind of thinking that I seek to help educators discover through my keynotes on the subject.  We need to disrupt education significantly, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss my ideas more with you with the hope to add value to your next conference or event.

Learn more about my keynote speeches. Contact me to set up a first step phone call today!

Can Time Spent Playing Online Games Help Teens Develop Cultural Competency?

 

Can Time Spent Playing Online Games Help Teens Develop Cultural Competency?

Gaming companies and learning experts often disagree on the effects of online gaming among teens.

Despite the fact that we have watched our children play online games for decades, and that a whole generation of gamers has grown up without civilization collapsing, there is still an intense fear among many that online gaming is "dangerous" and has no positive long-term value.

Every few weeks we come across stories from psychologists and others detailing how battling opponents in games like “World of WarCraft” can make children have violent tendencies. We have also heard stories about online video games making kids hyper and anti-social.

Within this backdrop, it is fairly safe to conclude that the fact that researchers today have begun looking into ways to introduce video games to accelerate classroom learning might be unnerving to many. And yet still others are able to extoll gaming’s virtues, including the authors of a 2014 American Psychological Association article, “The Benefits of Playing Video Games” which surveyed the landscape of video games. In it they identify four types of positive impact that video games have on the kids who play them: cognitive, motivational, emotional, and social.

Why would gaming be approved in schools in the first place, and can online gaming really help teens develop cultural competency?  I will dive into this a bit deeper below.

One Path to Cultural Competence

The reason is simple – video gaming online appears to be one of the unique ways to cultivate cultural competence.

Our world is a connected world.  Through television, travel, and the Internet we have opportunity to intersect with others around the globe in various capacities. Gaming online is another means of opportunity for youth to connect and team with people all over the world.  The opportunity for leaders is to harness the potential of this reality to see that deeper learning takes place.

To live and thrive in this world, today’s children must learn the intricacies of a connected globe. Anthony Johnson, Director of the Center for Global Education at the Asia Society, calls this “global competence.”

Anthony makes it clear that if the current generation is serious about bringing the world together, which I also advocate for strongly, then they must arm the current youth with knowledge and skills in global competence.

But, What Exactly is Global Competence?

I was reminded of the Asia Society’s excellent framework in a recent related session I attended while keynoting at the ASCD conference last month. Their recent report titled “Teaching for Global Competence in a Rapidly Changing World" defines global competence as a combination of four domains, which are the ability to:

1. Explore local, intercultural, and global issues

A globally competent individual combines knowledge about the world with critical reasoning whenever they form opinions about a global problem.

2. Understand and appreciate the perspectives and worldviews of others

Being globally competent brings with it a willingness to look at global problems from different perspectives.

3. Engage in appropriate, open, and effective interactions across cultures

When you are globally competent, you can engage in respectful dialogue without undermining marginalized groups.

4. Take action for collective well-being and sustainable development

Globally competent individuals are ready and willing to respond to local, global, or intercultural issues for the common good.

Conclusion: Online Games Can Teach Many of These Skills

Games can help kids appreciate cultural diversity and become global thinkers. Game play online often requires teaming and that can be with anyone, anywhere around the world.  Unique partnerships can develop, which while simple and focused on game play, actually do lay a foundation for global cooperation. Online gaming can be one method, among many, that can assist and provide young people with simple skills in cultural competence.  When reflected on and combined with other methods, such as my Ravi Unites Schools initiative, the overall effect and impact can be significant.

What is needed is the intention to provide stakeholders with the necessary insight to make video gaming a tool that we can confidently use to teach cultural competence as we seek to prepare the future generation for a peaceful and economically productive coexistence.  I aim to provide some of that intentional insight into how to utilize what currently engages youth via my keynotes and to help educators turn experiences like these into deeper learnings about cultural competence.

Does this topic pique your interest? Consider booking Ravi for a keynote at your next education leadership meeting or conference. Get the conversation started by reaching out to Ravi at raviunites.com/contact.

 

Ravi Unites Schools Cross-cultural Interaction Between Students in Ohio and India

Ravi Unites Schools Cross-cultural Interaction between Students in Ohio and India

IMAGE CREDIT: ROBERT K.YOSAY | THE VINDICATOR
Poland Middle School students Skype with students in India as part of their "Capture Kindness" month programs Lauren Barrett - asks a question... of her Indian counterparts.

Ravi Unites Schools Cross-cultural Interaction between Students in Ohio and India

The Ravi Unites Schools initiative kicked off with a spirited real-time audio-video interaction last week. I am so proud to have facilitated another cross-cultural experience for a new group of students. Nearly 50 eighth and ninth graders from two schools—Poland Middle School in Poland, Ohio USA, and Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project in Tamil Nadu, India—discussed what matters to them. For this group, this included their favorite foods and music, to the issues caused by the class and caste systems, to combatting world hunger. I greatly appreciate the enthusiasm and preparation of the students and teachers at each school—they are what makes Ravi Unites Schools a success!

One educator expressed this to me after the event:

“As a school counselor, I am always looking for inspiring lessons and resources to teach character development. Our live video-audio session covered more lessons in 45 minutes than I could cover in months and the students loved it! I highly recommend any classroom or school system to partake in one, it is truly a unique, engaging, inspiring experience for kids and adults. Thank you, Ravi!”

Exchanges like these enable kids to bond naturally, even across miles and time zones. They truly benefit from this cross-cultural peer-to-peer discovery. As we head further into a future that includes globalization, cultural competency is rapidly becoming a required skill. And as access to technology increases in schools, there is no reason why interactions like this cannot happen regularly in classrooms all around the world.

The online meeting began with a short introduction by me. Followed by the first peer-to-peer question, which was posed by a US student: “What is your weather like?” Such a seemingly benign topic quickly revealed several things: degrees in Fahrenheit were converted to Celsius to establish an understanding. Next, it was discovered that what might feel like a warm day in Poland, Ohio could feel frigid in Tamil Nadu, because in general, it is so much warmer there. And while the students in Ohio expressed that they were sick and tired of snow, their peers in Tamil Nadu expressed that they had never seen it in person.

Food-related questions were also revealing. Students shared that, in India, eating beef is against their religion, while many Americans eat it several times per week. On the popular subject of sports, students bonded over basketball and volleyball and explained American-style football and Indian-style cricket to each other.

Then came a big question from the US students: “What one thing would you change in the world?” This sparked discussion about social injustices, including the issues that arise from classism and from India’s caste system. The relatively elite students in Ohio were stunned to learn that they were engaging with peers who are from some of the poorest families in the world. Enough commonalities had already been established between these students for them to recognize that classism has no place in the modern world. This discussion also explored ways that we can combat world hunger by addressing it in our own communities.

The conversation then lightly gravitated back to musical tastes: both groups shared similar preferences for Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran and others.

All too soon, it was time to say goodbye. It was obvious that minds had been opened and bonds formed. As for me, I could not be happier with the outcome, which brought me back to the very first online interaction for students I created nearly 8 years ago. Then as now, in less than one hour, students felt a greater affinity with their peers of other cultures and faiths. People are still people, wherever they live; we simply want to get along and learn from each other. There is nothing stopping us from carrying the ball closer to world peace.

If you are a school seeking to participate in a similar interaction between your students and those of another area, please reach out by joining the Ravi Unites Schools Facebook group and posting your interest there. I am committed to helping you facilitate this experience for your students.

It happened again in Charlottesville

It happened again on Saturday night: white supremacists marched with torches in my hometown of Charlottesville VA. The rhetoric from the “terrorists” was louder, more emboldened, and with greater determination to remind the largely liberal Charlottesville community that they are not going away. This time, however, no one counter-protested so it barely made the news.

When this first happened on August 12th, I was traveling in the notoriously turbulent Middle East and that day, on the Syrian/Lebanon border in the thick of Hezbollah territory (see previous blog post). Ironically, it was very peaceful until my phone lit up with reports of “domestic terrorism” on my own doorstep.

Extremists of all types, whether motivated by race or religion, live among us 24/7. As egregious as their beliefs may be, they represent part of the human condition that exists within each of us — implicit bias. We convince ourselves that such biases must be changed, and they probably can be through appropriate education and the natural evolution of the idealistic millennials and Gen Z. However, in order to facilitate the process, we must invoke civility now.

In August, citizens of Charlottesville threw gasoline on a spark and a fire ignited. People were injured, one person killed, and the city unraveled. Now that spark has returned, begging for fuel.

Newton’s third law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, how extreme are we willing to go? Civil war? On the other hand, what if there were no reaction? Would the spark ignite or ultimately fizzle out?

In the quest for world peace, the primary requirement is for differing beliefs to not stoke the fire, but live together in harmony. As humans, and even more so as Americans, we all have more in common to build upon than we have differences to pull us apart.

Like my Lebanese driver told me, “It doesn’t matter if one is Christian, Muslim, Hezbollah, or Army. We are Lebanese first.”

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Education, an entitlement or a gift?

I had the honor of keynoting Accenture’s Scrum Gathering this month in Bangalore, India. Scrum/Agile is a project management system derived from a software framework that has evolved into a business culture. This subject fell outside of my comfort zone, which is my favorite place to be; only then do I know that I am learning and growing. Using the concept of "agility," I discussed what it means to be an agile human being and how IT experts can use their skills to solve society's greatest injustices and bring us closer to world peace. It was a risk, but one that resulted in a standing ovation.

While the response to my morning keynote was gratifying, the conference highlight was the afternoon closing session. I invited two graduates of Shanti Bhavan Children's Project—a residential school for the poorest of the poor and the subject of Netflix's new documentary “Daughters of Destiny”—to join me for an on-stage discussion about emerging from abject poverty and gaining career opportunities typically granted to the upper-class. The school's founder and my friend, Dr. Abraham George, joined us for a few closing remarks.

Any child can succeed

Their stories prove that any child can succeed if given the right opportunity, and Shanti Bhavan yields hundreds of these stories. Each year, 12 girls and 12 boys are taken out of the villages before the age four and their education is paid for until they graduate college and begin work. Then, 20-50% of their salaries go toward rebuilding homes in their villages, providing healthcare for their families, and other contributions to their communities. Since the school began in 1997, 97% have graduated from high school, 98% from college, and 97% have gained employment at multi-national companies such as American Express, Goldman Sachs, and Deloitte. Unlike most disadvantaged children, these students are not taught to survive; they are taught to thrive.

I visited the school for several days after the conference, reuniting with students and teachers after seven years when I first became a partner. The young children have grown into impressive young adults, and there were over a hundred new smiling faces eager to interact with me. With several graduating classes having gone on to college and prosperous careers, Abraham asked me if I thought that a sense of entitlement may be setting in with the older students. I felt that it might be, so each evening I gathered all the high school students for a vibrant group dialogue.

Education is bigger than the individual

My overall message to them was simple: "Shanti Bhavan is bigger than all of us. It isn't about students, teachers, or a beautiful campus, and it hasn't provided you with a free education just so you can get a great job and buy a nice car and big screen TV. This is a movement, and you have a responsibility and opportunity to further its mission of eradicating poverty and improving the world." I asked them what they would do if the school shut its doors tomorrow, and explained that if any one of them were to revert back to village life, then Shanti Bhavan will have failed them and they will have failed Shanti Bhavan. They then debated how to further the "movement" and explored implementing the model into other existing schools, fundraising to start a new Shanti Bhavan, and more.

While their lifelong commitment need not focus entirely on sustaining the school, we discussed that they must always be working toward eliminating social injustices or solving environmental issues, which could even be as simple as buying solar panels for their homes rather than fancy cars. Collectively, they felt most passionate about eradicating corruption and the caste system, so we also talked about how as individuals we must "be the change you wish to see in the world" (Gandhi). This was an exercise that they will never forget, and they were genuinely appreciative (see video).

I believe that everyone is entitled to a good education, but in reality, whether one receives it as a beneficiary of philanthropists or of taxpayers, education is a gift. Every student, regardless of country or wealth, should be taught to value it as such, and that it carries responsibilities and opportunities that are bigger than him or herself. I never had discussions like these as a student, but any school that aims to produce the leaders of tomorrow ought to be regularly asking each student, independent of grades or assignments, "How are you going to change the world?" The answer doesn't matter, but the thought process develops intellectual agility, strong character, and good values, which should be the priority of education.

Learn more about Shanti Bhavan

 

 

To book a keynote, please contact me at info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

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What 30 Days in the Middle East Taught Me About Charlottesville

I am now back home in the United States to give a keynote for 500 superintendents, principals, teachers, and staff of the Jericho New York school system. Their top request is for me to address the recent domestic terrorism in my hometown of Charlottesville, VA, and guide them on how to lead students through this changing landscape of American society. Having just spent the past two months giving keynotes on cultural entrepreneurship and songwriting in comparatively peaceful Iraq and Lebanon, my perspective on terrorism and religious/ideological divides has been greatly fine tuned.

The Middle East was truly life changing for me (see past two blogs here). I had Iraqi students from Mosul who had been captured and tortured by ISIS and liberated only days before I arrived, Kurds who still live in fear ever since their families had been gassed by Saddam Hussein 30 years ago, and Syrians whose homes in Aleppo have been recently bombed and turned into rubble.

A few days ago, my wife and I drove through Hezbollah Lebanese territory along the Syrian border in order to discover more of Lebanon. Baalbek is one of the most fantastic cities I have ever seen. Many advised us not to go because the two hour journey through the heart of Hezbollah is said to be dangerous, and the US Embassy even warns that it will not assist citizens if something goes wrong. However, a few locals that we grew to trust said that it would be a missed opportunity not to go. So, we hired a reputable driver that would not sell us out to terrorists (apparently this is a serious possibility) and only spoke in French to disguise my being an American. Our ten hour trip is one that we will remember for a lifetime.

About half way to Baalbek, a soldier at a checkpoint got into our car and rode with us for fifteen minutes as we crossed the "Christian/Muslim border" in the Beqaa Valley. I still don't know why he joined us, but one of the two roads to Baalbek appeared to be closed and clearly we were taking the one that was unfamiliar to our driver. After the soldier got out, our Christian driver periodically had to ask the local Hezbollah community for directions. This made me very nervous, however, he told us that this has happened to him before. In fact, he said that Hezbollah often offers him a cup of coffee or tea before sending him on his way. He explained that it doesn't matter if one is Christian, Muslim, Hezbollah, or Army. "We are all Lebanese first," he said. "And this is how Lebanese treat each other."

As much as we believe that the Middle East is filled with radical ideology, today's America seems more radical than anywhere else. How ironic it was to have been peacefully traveling throughout Iraq and Lebanon, and on the very day that I am surrounded by Hezbollah, the international "breaking news" reports domestic terrorism in Charlottesville VA.

America is rapidly moving to left and right extremes, but civility only resides in the middle. We must peacefully lure each other toward the center in order to have civil discourse, and if necessary, agree to disagree. Whether one is Christian, Muslim, socialist, alt. right, straight, or gay, we are all Americans first.

 

 

 

 

To book a keynote, please contact me at info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

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The American Dream in the Middle East

It was an honor to give the keynote a few days ago to the Colorado Association of School Executives. I shared stories from last week's trip to Iraq and from the experience of working with my students from Mosul who endured the worst suffering under ISIS simply because they committed the crime of playing music. Their poignant journeys provided an opening for my keynote unlike any other I have given (if you didn't see my last blog post, let me know and I'll forward it to you). I'm still moved to tears each time I talk about them, and I will be telling their stories for a long time to come as an example of bravery, determination, and creativity in defeating fundamentalist ideology with music.

Dr. Jill Biden (former United States "Second Lady"/wife of Vice President Joe Biden) was the other keynote speaker. Both of us work with children in Syrian refugee camps in the Middle East, and we both come from political families that have shaped the world's most influential democracies. So, I gave her and Joe my grandmother's biography, We Nehrus—the inside story of my own family's fight for independence and how my great uncle, aunt, and cousin created and governed the world's largest democracy for over 40 years.

I typically do not discuss my family history in my presentations and didn't in Colorado. However, it had relevance to my Cultural Entrepreneurship students in Iraq last week and I think that it may also be important to my Syrian students this week in Lebanon—some of whom live amongst the rubble of Aleppo. The freedom to pursue one's passion is a distant concept in this part of the world, and harsh realities of the Middle East make an entrepreneurial mindset seem like naive idealism.

In order to earn my students' confidence, they needed to know that my own family fought for India's independence and were assassinated for their beliefs about the future of their country. This created a bridge between the students and me. While most of them do not believe that things can change in their country, they now realize that they will lose this defeatist argument with me.

As I tell them each day at our American Voices YES Academy Lebanon, "Things won't change by themselves. Someone has to 'be the change' (Gandhi), and that 'someone' may very well be one of you.

 

To book a keynote, please contact me at info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

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Iraq: Gaining New Perspectives on Life

When I first announced my trip to Iraq, some questioned why I would ever go to such a place. While I knew intellectually that it would be a growth opportunity personally and professionally, I greatly underestimated just how life-changing it would be. As I now sit in beautiful Breckenridge Colorado to give the keynote for the Colorado Association of School Executives, I have new stories to tell that will enhance my message of educating for peace in a globalized world.

I taught cultural entrepreneurship to 150 Iraqis and Kurds last week, however, my special project was to work with four musicians from Mosul who over the past three years had been robbed, captured, and tortured by ISIS. Their crime was playing music, and execution was the standard punishment.

The timing could not have been more poignant since Mosul was liberated only days before I arrived. After they spent nine hours in 120 degree weather trying to cross a checkpoint in order to work with me, we shared stories, wrote incredible music together, laughed and cried, and hugged each other so tightly that there is no doubt that we will be great friends for life. I may be their teacher, but they taught me more than I could have imagined about values, courage, and life.

The depth of their suffering is only superseded by their ability to rise above it. These four young men—Ameen, Hakam, Khalid, and Mouhamad—are the bravest soldiers I know. They don't fight with guns or bombs to kill terrorists (people) who will simply resurface; they fight terrorism (ideology) with musical instruments by defying ISIS and inspiring others not to surrender to fundamentalism. Their ability to escape their fate yet still fight with music is a level of courage that I cannot fathom. True heroes.

They honored me with gifts that are hard for me to process. Ameen signed and dedicated to me his shirt that he wore the first time he played his violin atop the rubble of Yunus temple destroyed by ISIS, risking his life to make a point (google it...many news stories on him). Khalid, a professional barber, cut my hair—ISIS made it illegal to shave or get a haircut so he had no business for three years, but once ISIS was defeated, people cut their hair in both celebration and defiance symbolizing their newfound freedom. Hakam gave me a guitar-shaped key chain that almost got him killed until he convinced ISIS that it was a chicken leg and not a guitar. And Mouhamad, who was tortured by ISIS in ways that we have only seen blacked-out on TV news, gave me a beautiful journal in which he wrote in Arabic that our friendship is immortal.

Not only do they smile, laugh, and express so much love toward me, but they extend their hands to their neighbors, the Kurds, with whom there has and continues to be so much conflict (chemical attacks, fight for independence, battles over oil, etc.). Their open hearts enabled my Kurdish students to collaborate with them, and together they will all rise up as millennial musicians and "be the change you wish to see in the world" (Gandhi).

Iraq is an incredibly complex country and it was profound to know each day that at any moment I could be killed by a car bomb or stray bullet (every Iraqi thinks about this constantly as it is part of life). However, in order to truly make a difference in the lives of others and gain a better understanding of the world in which we live, some risks are most definitely worth taking.


To book a keynote, please contact me at info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

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Independence Day Around the World

I have started a travel blog to bring you along on the cultural diplomacy journey I am taking this summer. Along with faculty from American Voices' YES Academy and US Department of State, I will be travelling to Iraq and Lebanon. My government sponsored tours promote cultural exchange and understanding through keynotes on entrepreneurship—a pillar of democracy—and music programs that bring together talented individuals from traditionally opposed cultures and religions. My goal is to create global harmony through innovation and the arts, and this blog will share the excitement, photos, reflections, and results.

Watch a clip from last year’s global music mentoring in Jakarta.

As I prepare to leave on this United States Independence Day, I cannot help but think about the ongoing fight for independence taking place at my destination. Mosul may be just days away from being free of ISIS, and the Kurdistan region will vote later this year on becoming independent of Iraq. The goal of independence is universal but also very personal to me because my great uncle, Jawaharlal Nehru, led India to independence 70 years ago this summer.

I encourage you to remember that every individual has the ability to make a difference, especially in a young person’s life. Dr. Abraham George is the founder of the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project for impoverished students in India—another education program partner of mine. He is realizing his dream of breaking the cycle of poverty for the poorest of the poor. Shanti Bhavan is the feature of a new Netflix documentary series, Daughters of Destiny which will premiere on July 28.

Please tune in and follow this blog for more information on that program, on my work with American Voices and US Department of State, and on my keynote speaking schedule which is heating up for the remainder of 2017 into 2018: I will be at the Colorado Association of School Executives on July 26th, keynoting their annual conference with none other than Dr. Jill Biden!

To book a keynote, please contact me at info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088

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To book a keynote, please contact: info@RaviUnites.com or 1-202-838-7088