The Power of Culture to Create a Better Future

Jun. 28, 2013 / By

[Ed. Note: This essay was written as an entry for an international essay contest held by the Goi Peace Foundation. Youth, ages 15-25, were asked to answer the question, “What aspects of the culture of your country or region do you take pride in, and how can youth make the most of them to create a better future?”]

We don’t have control over the country we’re born into– the culture, the society, the family, or the environment.  Whether we like it or not, we have to accept our reality and live the life we were destined. Each country has its own culture. A culture that identifies it, a culture one day we can look back and be proud of, a culture we’re part of.

In my culture, family and art are what has given me pride to proudly say that I’m Middle Eastern.

My home country is Iraq and even though I left Iraq when I was 9, I can still remember those little things I learned from my culture that have stayed with me. In Iraq, the most valuable thing was family. I grew up learning that your No. 1 mission in life is to take care of your family. It is shameful when the parents get old and the children throw them in an elderly home. My parents sacrificed everything for me and my siblings to come to America, so taking care of them when they’re old is a small price to pay for all the love and care they’ve given me. They have set an example for me to sacrifice what I have for those I love without wanting something in return. I’ll always be thankful to them for that.

It’s simply devastating seeing how some kids treat their parents here in America. No respect and no love. I remember my 9th grade teacher telling the class that it’s common in the Middle East for people to take care of their parents when they’re old, but here, you rarely see someone who is taking care of their parents. And I remember some students mocking and saying they can’t wait to leave their parents. Once your 18 your out. It’s sometimes the parents’ fault for not always being there for their children. But children must at least show some appreciation to their parents.

Another thing I like about Arabic culture is our art, museums, statues. As fascinating as this might sound for many– I saw the pyramids, I went into inside a pyramid, I saw mummies, ancient statues, and I rode a camel. I take pride in these things because here in America there are many who people didn’t have the chance to do all these things. The greatest thing about the pyramids for me is that no one knows how they were built it’s still a secret and that makes them special.

Culture is what identifies us. We are all equal human beings, but when it comes to cultures and backgrounds, we’re all different and unique in our own way. Some Iraqis might not like thinking back and remembering Iraq, because of the war and all the killings, and some might think it’s ruined forever. But its beautiful culture will live on forever. That’s the great thing about cultures they never fade. Through books, art and people, they last forever.

I mostly remember the war in Iraq. I didn’t get to make as much happy memories there besides being with my family and feeling their love. Many youth who come to the United States when they’re young forget their culture and traditions. Some parents simply don’t teach their children about the culture they’re from. They don’t realize that cultures are what keep our world diverse. It’s sad seeing a lot of people who don’t know anything about their culture. I will always hold my culture with pride and

The biggest thing we can do to make the world more peaceful is to take pride in our culture and to teach others the beautiful things about it. Learning about different cultures help us understand and accept people, there would be less discrimination and racism if everyone was open to learn about other cultures. America is a country full of people from different cultures and backgrounds, and if everyone was to learn about these cultures there would be more empathy and compassion for people and that would create unity in the world.

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Suzan Al-Shammari

Suzan Al-Shammari

Suzan Al-Shammari is a graduate of Wilson High. She is originally from Iraq. She immigrated to the U.S in 2010. She speaks fluent Arabic and English. She believes that everyone has the right to speak their mind without being judged. She is a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald and hopes to one day reach her dream of becoming a Publicist.