'Fight Our Tribal Mindset.' Read Justin Trudeau's Commencement Address to NYU Graduates

This article was originally posted in TIME Magazine.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered the commencement addressfor New York University (NYU) on Wednesday, urging graduates to fight tribalism and “aggressive nationalism” and to find common ground across political and cultural divides.

“I think we can aim a little higher than mere tolerance,” Trudeau said. “Think about it: Saying ‘I tolerate you’ actually means something like, ‘Ok, I grudgingly admit that you have a right to exist, just don’t get in my face about it, and oh, don’t date my sister.’ There’s not a religion in the world that asks you to ‘tolerate thy neighbor.’ So let’s try for something a little more like acceptance, respect, friendship, and yes, even love. And why does this matter? Because, in our aspiration to relevance; in our love for our families; in our desire to contribute, to make this world a better place, despite our differences, we are all the same.”

He encouraged graduates to engage with people other than those with whom they already agree. “This world is and must be bigger than that,” he said.

“It’s been pointed out that one of the many differences between Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis was that Davis preferred to win a debate, while Lincoln would rather win the war,” he said. “And that’s the question: Do you want to win an argument or do you want to change the world?”

Read the full text of his speech, delivered at Yankee Stadium, here:

Bonjour tout le monde! Merci et félicitations!
I am very happy to be here with you today, deeply honored. Thank you for that kind introduction, Niobe. Andy, it’s wonderful to see you again. I am so grateful for the honor you and NYU have given me today. Now, you know — you may not know, but Andrew is an honorary Canadian and British Columbian because, like me, he studied at the University of British Columbia back in the day. It makes me proud that Canada was part of Andrew’s formation, just as NYU has helped form so many amazing Canadians, including two members of my own staff.
I’m actually told that 180 of the NYU class of 2018 are Canadians. Hello! Welcome, my friends!
I have to say, to be here now, speaking with all of you — in Yankee Stadium, one of the greatest places in one of the greatest cities on Earth — is more than a little humbling. My friends, you are now NYU graduates — the best and the brightest. You have great potential and possibilities. And therefore, you have enormous responsibility, too. So today, I’d like to talk about the nature of both those things, and I’d like to offer you a challenge. One that I think is essential for your future success as individuals, and as the leaders that you are becoming.
Among the many things I admire about NYU, is that about a fifth of the students are international. And a similar proportion are the very first in their families to go to college. This group is truly diverse in every possible way. And I think that is an extraordinarily valuable and important thing. When I graduated in the early 1990s, I went on a trip around the world with a few good friends — who actually remain good friends to this day, which is sort of a miracle.
We trekked and traveled, mostly over land, from Europe to Africa to Asia. And that remains one of the great formative experiences of my life. It was an amazing adventure.
Le voyage s’est aussi avéré essentiel à mon éducation au sens plus large du terme, parce que j’ai dû, pour la première fois en tant qu’adulte, rencontrer, échanger et tisser des liens d’amitié avec des gens qui ne partageaient toujours pas mes opinions, mes expériences, mes idées et mes valeurs.
It was also a really important contributor to my continued, broader education. Because it forced me, really for the first time as an adult, to meet, engage, befriend people whose views and experiences, ideas, values and language were very different from my own. When a kid from Montreal meets a Korean fisherman living in Mauritania, befriends a Russian veteran of their Afghan war, or a shopkeeper and his family living in Danang, interesting conversations always happen. Now, maybe some of you have talked about doing something like a great trip like that after graduation. But I’d be willing to bet one of the first things you heard was a warning: “You can’t do that in this day and age. It’s not safe!” But here’s my question: Is it really just the issue of physical safety that makes our loved ones so anxious at the idea of us getting out there, or is it the threat that if we look past our frames — the frames of our own lives, of our own community’s structured values and belief systems — to truly engage with people who believe fundamentally different things, we could perhaps be transformed into someone new and unfamiliar to those who know and love us?
See, there’s no question that today’s world is more complex than it was in the mid-1990s. There are serious and important problems that we are grappling with and will continue to grapple with.
But we are not going to arrive at mutual respect, which is where we solve common problems, if we cocoon ourselves in an ideological, social or intellectual bubble. Now, we can see it all around us — there’s a peculiar fascination with dystopia in our culture today. You see it everywhere on film and TV, but the truth is that, on balance, we have the good fortune to live in a time of tremendous possibility and potential; a time when it is within our grasp to eliminate extreme poverty, to end terrible diseases like malaria and TB, and to offer a real chance at an education to everyone on this planet.
But for us to move forward, to keep moving and moving forward, we have to do it together — all together. Humanity has to fight our tribal mindset. We go to the same church? Cool, you’re in my tribe. You speak my language? You’re in my tribe. You’re an NYU alumni? You’re in my tribe. You play Pokémon Go? You’re a vegetarian? You like the Yankees? You go to the gun range? You’re pro-choice? Tribe, tribe, tribe. But of course, its not the “belonging” part that is the problem, it’s the corollary: You are part of my tribe, and they are not.
Whether it’s race, gender, language, sexual orientation, religious or ethnic origin, or our beliefs and values themselves — diversity doesn’t have to be a weakness. It can be our greatest strength. Now often, people talk about striving for tolerance. Now, don’t get me wrong: there are places in this world where a little more tolerance would go a long way, but if we’re being honest right here, right now, I think we can aim a little higher than mere tolerance.

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