“We need to build bridges, not walls.” Former U.S.Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun’s face illuminates a screen as he says these words. He is projected there as part of a live video conference for the 20 eager listeners participating in the Jo Cox Memorial Exchange Program, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in London and administered by Legacy International. The participants are listening intently—taking notes and nodding their heads; speaking to him about the projects they are planning to implement upon their return home. His message of unity through adversity is timely and the young people vocalize their agreement—reflecting his call for fellowship through their own hopes and plans for the future.
In August 2017, Legacy International organized an immersive educational experience for 20 young people from across the United Kingdom. The Jo Cox Memorial Exchange Program afforded these young leaders the opportunity to explore the topic of social cohesion in the United States. The program is named after Jo Cox, a member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, who had a strong moral compass and a passion for finding solutions to end violence and discriminatory hate. Jo Cox tackled issues of Islamophobia, refugee rights, and was a champion for representing ethnic diversity among her constituents. Her tragic death in June 2016 sparked global outrage and strengthened the resolve of the international community to carry on her legacy of tackling extremism and violence and promoting social inclusion and cohesion.
The tragedy in Charlottesville, VA occurred just prior to the group’s arrival, providing a backdrop to discuss leadership, freedom of speech vs. protection of people, and a vast array of social topics and issues. Moreover, Legacy International’s LivingSidebySide® curriculum formed the foundation for personal leadership and dialogue skill building throughout the duration of the program.
The outstanding success of the program is, in part, attributed to the multitude of remarkable U.S. organizations dealing directly and indirectly with the subjects of racism, poverty, marginalized populations, and hate groups with whom Legacy was able to partner. Through meetings and resources provided by these various organizations, the U.K. participants received information addressing pertinent issues faced by an assortment of socio-economic, ethnic, and religious groups in the United States.
Throughout all the meetings and sessions held during the 2-week program, the idea that social cohesion demands effort on many fronts was repeatedly highlighted. The indispensible resources acquired from the organizations visited, coupled with the invaluable experience of meeting, firsthand, with organizations working on issues that Jo Cox was so passionate about, has prepared these young people to be the leaders that the world needs, today.
Thank you to all our partners and guest speakers for taking the time to meet with us and discuss your work.
- American Friends Service Committee
- Congressman Jared Polis’s Office
- Council on American Islamic Relations
- DC Office of Disability Rights
- Gays against Guns DC
- Holocaust Memorial Museum – Confronting Hate programs
- My Brother’s Keeper / DC Office of the Mayor
- National Disability Rights Network
- Sustained Dialogue
- We Are Family DC
- Anti-Defamation League – No Place for Hate campaign
- Broad Street Ministry – Hospitality Collaborative
- Church of St Martin-in-the-fields – Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER)
- Interfaith Center of Philadelphia
- Open Society Institute Panel with “Communities Against Hate” grantees: Holistic Life Foundation, Community Law in Action, Wide Angle Youth Media, and Baltimore Youth Arts
More information on Jo Cox and her life can be found at the Jo Cox Foundation