Global Village hosts Oscar-winner Dreyfuss

When the 110 participants in the 2010 Global Village for Future Leaders of Business and Industry enrolled in the program, they knew their time at Lehigh was not going to be a vacation. The program, which prepares promising young business leaders from around the globe to succeed in the international market, packs a rigorous academic curriculum into just six weeks.

Last week the villagers, who represent 48 countries, attended a team building session, participated in roundtable discussions with corporate executives, presented information on the economies of their respective countries, and attended panel sessions on visas, immigration, entrepreneur basics and globalization. So, it was a surprise when the week came to a close with a presentation given by actor Richard Dreyfuss.

Dreyfuss, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Goodbye Girl and starred in such blockbusters as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Mr. Holland’s Opus, had spent much of the previous two days listening at the seminars and presentations offered for the villagers. While acting has been a near life-long profession for him, his interest in education is what brought him to Lehigh’s campus. Dreyfuss has been traveling the country advocating for the return of civics to the classroom, and Lehigh’s Global Village piqued his interest.

We were fortunate to be able to host Richard Dreyfuss and experience his unwavering passion and conviction on the Dreyfuss Initiative,” says Beth Simmons, director of curriculum for the Global Village program at the Iacocca Institute, which continues through Aug. 7.

“The resurgence of civics to K-12 education, not only in the United States but worldwide, the efforts to teach future generations to effectively and peacefully govern, and the compassion of citizens in any country to care and nurture their own in a productive manner, transcends borders and are efforts that many of our program participants pursue in their own countries, Simmons says. 

'We need to teach research, logic and clarity of thought'

After listening to Global Village participants vigorously debate the pros and cons of globalization, Dreyfuss presented his case for civics in America’s schools to his first non-American audience in Perella Auditorium at Rauch Business Center.

“There are people who don’t like me, but nobody has ever said it’s wrong to teach civics to the young,” Dreyfuss told a combined audience of Global Village participants and students from the Pennsylvania School for Global Entrepreneurship, a residential program for high school students ages 15-18. “Nothing binds us except our ideas. We need to teach research, logic and clarity of thought.”

Dreyfuss advocates his position through The Dreyfuss Initiative, an organization that aims to “teach our kids how to run our country with common sense and realism, before it’s time for them to run the country.” His mission, and that of the initiative, is to counter the changes taking place within our country and within our world by arming American children with the knowledge and power they need to make a difference.

“You can’t see the fundamental changes going on beneath your feet until they are upon you,” Dreyfuss advised his audience. “Our educational system is in a free fall. Students need to leave high school with ownership and a sense of pride.”

Photo by Theo Anderson