Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The World on the Bus: Public Diplomacy for the Public Transit System

As a Washingtonian Jersey Girl transplanted to Los Angeles, I try to keep myself sane by using public transportation. Although public transportation in LA is harder to use, less efficient, unreliable and slower than every city I have ever had the pleasure of using public transportation in around the globe (est. 25), it generally feels the same as any where else. Tonight, I did not expect thee bus ride home from work to be any different than usual, but it indeed was. 

This gray evening, the bus was crowded and I chose to stand reading the Economist near the back exit to allow those whose jobs are physically demanding space to sit. An older hispanic man came onto the bus and gestured for me to take an empty seat, his eyes told me that I should, so I graciously accepted. A stop later, he sat next to me and started speaking to me in Spanish, but with an accent that was difficult for me to understand. After a few attempts at communication, I finally understood what he was saying:

"The whole world rides on the bus, God is everywhere"

He pointed to the Economist and recommended that instead of reading the news, which discusses much of the worlds' hardships, I should read the Bible. He asked if I know the Bible, and I replied "mas o menos" (more or less). He suggested that I read it for 30 minutes before I go to sleep at night. I explained that I needed to read the news to know what is happening in the world. He just shook his head, smiled warmly and said, that "God is great" and that there is only one God. I agreed with him whole heartedly. 

שמע ישראל ה' אלוכנו ה' אחד - Hear O' Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord is One

This surprising conversation got the public diplomacy ideas flowing.  The whole world rides on the bus, I looked around me, people speaking multiple languages, different lives, religions, dreams, careers and stories. Everywhere around the world, people ride the bus. I would recommend two initiatives to encourage understanding between culture through bus rides. To call on bus commuters to make short videos about their bus rides. What is your bus story? What is your bus world like? Collect videos from everywhere in the world and create a video documentary of "The World on the Bus". This documentary could clearly illustrate through shared culture and values how everywhere in the world, people can relate to each other on buses. The documentary could be launched on a new international day which suggests that every commuter try to ride the bus to show how people around the world may be different in numerous ways, but can also be the same. The whole world on the bus. 

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