You think you know...but you have no idea!

Trip Start Jul 09, 2009
Trip End Dec 12, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Colorado
Friday, July 17, 2009

I thought I knew exactly what Up With People was all about when I first started to browse the web site. When I arrived in Denver, I assumed I was pro.

You think you know...but you have no idea!

Up With People is so much more than just a group of energetic and enthusiastic students hoping to make a difference while singing and dancing.

During the turbulent times of the 1960's, some of our nation's youth came together for a Youth Leadership Conference, determined to change negative perspectives. The attitude of the nation was very antagonistic and "down". Some of the youth at the conference decided to write a song in order to lift the spirits of the people. It was called "Up, Up With People". Thus, the concept of Up With People originated as a song. The youth at the conference formed a group called Sing Out and their main song was the "Up, Up With People" song. Later the group changed its name to Up With People and the idea to take the main song (and others proclaiming similar messages) around the nation was born.

Since that time, more than 25,000 men and women from more than 80 countries have performed with Up With People, including actress, Glenn Close, and contemporary Christian singer, Mark Schultz. Up With People casts have performed more than 3 million hours of community service and directly impacted over 25 million people around the world.

Some highlight performances of Up With People include:

-- the World Expo in Montreal (1967)
-- being received by Pope Paul VI (1969)
-- performing with Bob Hope for President Nixon at the White House (1971)
-- the Munich Olympics (1972)
-- Facilitating Boston public school desegregation (1975)
-- Super Bowl X in Miami (1976), XIV in Pasadena (1980), XVI in Pontiac, Michigan (1982), and XX in New Orleans (1986)
-- President Bush's Inauguration (1988)
-- Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year (1994)
-- the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta 
-- Celebration of Peace with Colin Powell (1999)
-- Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York city (2007)
-- the Opening Ceremony of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena (2008)
Up With People hopes that through our intercultural and international experiences, we will encourage others to become more tolerant and understanding of the various differences in our world. We hope to spark conversations and discussions amongst people from different countries, socio-economic backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, value systems, and beliefs. If a group of 70 students from around the world can survive each other for 6 months, it can't be that difficult, can it? If we all took a minute to greet that stranger we've passed on the sidewalk for the past few weeks or say hello to the runner next to us at the gym, we'd probably find out that, more often than not, they are just like us. 

During the past week, I have met:

-- Isaiah, from the Arizona, who has a white mom and a black dad, and is cross-eyed (like me!).
-- Raven, from Bermuda, who loves to dance and sing.
-- Nao (pronounced 'Now'), from Japan, who celebrated her 23rd birthday today (Friday) and said it was the best birthday she's ever had.
-- Pieter, from Belgium, who loves to make everyone in the cast laugh by doing crazy dances.
-- Rafa, from Brazil, who is an expert at video production.
-- Lima, from Switzerland, who has become a great friend and loves to wear green.
-- Emil, from Sweden, who loves to wear bright blue shoes to rehearsal every day.
-- Tinna, from Sweden, who rocks out on the electric guitar in our UWP band.
-- Alejandra, from Mexico, who speaks Spanish with me everyday so I can become more fluent when conversing.
-- Yui, from Japan, who has more energy than my niece and nephew (and that's saying something!)

Some of us are Christian and some are Muslim. Some students had to fundraise in order to participate and others were fortunate to afford the entire cost. All political views are represented. All sexual orientations are represented. Many ethnicities and races are represented. Our cast incorporates too many differences to name. 


We all know the Cast B 2009 cheer by heart and love to scream it out at each given opportunity. We were all excited to learn the Jai Ho dance (the dance from "Slumdog Millionaire") yesterday. We all come to rehearsal at 8:00 a.m. exhausted and sore. We are all energized by 9:00 a.m. having sung a few songs and/or danced a few dances. We all race to lunch because, after working so hard in the morning, our stomachs are rumbling. We are all excited to travel to Mexico and Europe. We all either packed too much or too little. 

We also have too many commonalities to name which distract us from noticing our differences. Or maybe we just don't even consider those differences to be a distraction because we don't notice them in the first place. I'll take bets that the latter is correct. We all came to Up With People to make a difference, to impact those with whom we interact, and to inspire generations to renew old relationships, maintain current ones, and create new ones. We want people to learn the value of having a conversation with open minds, hearts, and ears. We want people to stop simply hearing and start listening and reflecting. Stop thinking of what you want to do to change the world and actually do it! We hope that, through our music, we will encourage people everywhere to reach out to someone who may need a smile, a kind word, or a few dollars just to get through the day. Maybe, then, will our message start to resound throughout the world. Have you felt the vibrations yet?

And after this semester is over, where will we all go from here? How will we continue to carry out the UWP mission?

We think we know...but we have no idea.
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