From the podium in Elfers Hall, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd took in the view of a mist-covered Lake Wononscopomuc in the distance.
"If you're sitting here by this beautiful lake, the world may seem a long way away," Rudd told students. "But it's a whole lot closer than you think."
Rudd, who gave an All-School address and attended history and language classes during his visit to campus on May 26, served as the 26th prime minister of Australia from 2007 to 2013. During the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, he led Australia's response, reviewed by the IMF as the most effective stimulus strategy of all member states. Australia was the only major developed economy not to go into recession. Currently, Rudd is president of the Asia Policy Institute, which focuses on addressing policy challenges between eastern and western nations and within Asia.
Neither of Rudd's parents graduated from high school, but he knew from a young age that he wanted to study China at an advanced level. He received a scholarship to attend an Australian boarding school, where he studied Chinese language and culture. Later, he joined the Australian foreign service as a China specialist. After holding various diplomatic roles, Rudd decided to return to Australian and enter public life. In his address in Elfers, Rudd spoke about the importance of global citizenship, and how that concept has evolved through the decades.
"In the future, being local will mean being global, and being global will mean being local," he said. "The boxes are all collapsing. The secret to being an effective citizen in the future means being an effective global citizen — to understand how the other person thinks and why they think that way, and not to dismiss those thoughts or the system from which it comes as inferior because it happens to be different from yours."
He also challenged students to examine their own beliefs and to find ways to make a difference where they are. Being thoughtful is important, he said, but ultimately, action is what counts.