As a father, I feel responsible not only for my three little girls’ health and well being, but also for their emotional security, their education and their safety. Because of this, I believe that it’s my responsibility to do my utmost to make the world a better place.
It’s not a wish unique to me. It’s something that all parents strive for. Because my day job focuses on foreign policy, however, I attempt to put my energy into actions that improve the way our country interacts with the world.
What will that world look like for my daughters? Say, 20 years from now, will there be peace in the Middle East? Will the climate have stabilized? Will there still be nuclear weapons?
It’s impossible to know. Twenty years ago I had just graduated from college. The world was wide open to my generation. The Cold War had ended, peace was in the air, the economy was about to boom and we were on the cusp of a technological revolution.
We grew up in the Cold War era, with Ronald Reagan facing off against the “Red menace.” Ghosts of Vietnam still haunted our national debates, fears of Nicaraguan contras were everywhere, and the Japanese were poised to allegedly take over our economy.
That dark period dissolved with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The peace and freedom and economic expansion of the 1990s defined my early professional career, with a burgeoning interest in global partnerships,
environmental stewardship, and multilateralism.
But that period of hope was fleeting. Along with the collapse of the Twin Towers, 9/11 destroyed our brief period of openness, that still dominates our thinking today. We entered a harder edged period focused on terrorism, economic austerity and seemingly endless, inconclusive wars abroad.
My children — ages 6, 4 and 2 — are too young still to feel the impact of current events. They don’t know anything of terrorism or nuclear weapons or the dangers of open-ended wars.
What they instead see is a world that is exceedingly diverse, with gargantuan amounts of information flowing through it. To them, it has always been normal to speak Chinese in a classroom, to watch TV on a phone, or to see an African-American family leading the country.
Their world is very different, and in many ways much improved, from the one I grew up in. And that gives me hope for our country’s foreign policy and the world on this Father’s Day.
Even though we live in a safer world today than the one I grew up in, we still confront on a daily basis the residue of bygone eras.
The Soviet Union is gone and the Cold War over, but we still have nuclear weapons.
Israel is safely established but does not have full peace with its neighbors.
Global poverty has been halved but still billions live on only a dollar a day.
Wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere are coming to an end, but our military families suffer from emotional and physical scars.
All these challenges remain, and many more. The task facing my generation is to lay them to rest as new ones appear. As a father, I question myself: what am I — and what are we — going to do over the next two decades to ensure that our children, when their time has come to lead, have a better world in front of them, just as we have had?
What will we do to ensure that we no longer fight needless wars of choice? What will we do to ensure that we do not overheat the planet? What will we do to ensure that all people have a chance to thrive and prosper? What will we do to eliminate the world’s most dangerous weapons? What will we do to promote peace?
Answering these questions is our greatest challenge. My wish for Father’s Day is that in the future I will, just like my father today, be able to look back at my children’s youth as a more difficult moment, one that I helped to make easier for them as they became adults.
That would make this a wonderful Father’s Day.
(Joel Rubin, director of policy and government affairs at Ploughshares Fund in Washington, D.C., and a Pittsburgh native, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter.com/JoelMartinRubin. His views are his own and not necessarily those of Ploughshares Fund.)