Friday, December 26, 2008

"Third Culture Kids"

This piece hit the Daily Beast awhile back but didn't seem to get a lot of play. I think it's fascinating: According to sociologists, Obama is a classic "Third Culture Kid" sharing the traits of many people with expat childhoods. These TCKs often grow into adults who are socially adaptable, intellectually flexible, and have a global perspective. They think outside the box and are good at reconciling opposing points of view. At the same time, they sometimes feel rootless and detached and are criticized for seeming aloof.

Sound familiar?
The great challenge for maturing Third Culture Kids is to forge a sense of personal and cultural identity from the various environments to which they been exposed. Barack Obama’s memoir, Dreams of My Father, could serve as a textbook in the TCK syllabus, a classic search for self-definition, described in living color. Obama’s colleagues on the Harvard Law Review were among the first to note both his exceptional skill at mediating among competing arguments and the aloofness that made his own views hard to discern. That cool manner of seeming “above it all” is also a classic feature of the Third Culture Kid.

The TCKs’ identity struggles can be painful and difficult. The literature documents addictive behaviors, troubled marriages and fitful careers. But meeting this challenge can become a TCK’s greatest strength. Learning to take the positive pieces from a variety of experiences and create a strong sense of “This is who I am, no matter where I am” gives a steadiness when the world around is in flux or chaos”—which helps explain “no-drama Obama.”
Obama is stocking his inner circle with other TCKs: advisor Valerie Jarrett (a childhood in Tehran and London), Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (East Africa, India, Thailand, China, Japan), National Security Advisor James L. Jones (Paris), and Commerce Secretary Bill Richardson (Mexico City).

Sociologist Ted Ward calls TCKs the "prototype citizens of the future." I think starting the future now is a great idea.

1 comment:

snoozetska said...

I love this idea. I'd like my own child to be a TCK since I've likely missed my chance.

Peace Corps here I come.