As we approach March, I sometimes think of that less-famous, though hugely impactful speech that saved the Union for another 10 years just prior to the American Civil War. On March 7, 1850, Daniel Webster, Senator from Massachusetts, delivered the only speech ever memorialized simply by the day in which it was delivered, The Seventh of March Speech. Leading up to this day, Webster was a staunch advocate of the free-state movement, avowing the ideology that no more slave states should be admitted to the Union under any compromise of any kind. He was what you would call a rabid abolitionist for his day due to his firm belief in a system that could and should do away with slavery in America once and for all. Embroiled in a long debate with Southern state Senators over this very topic, which lived under the auspices of states rights versus federal law, Webster became a kind of national celebrity of his day. His name was nearly as common-place as Michael Jordan in the 90s, though I doubt Webster could play ball like Jordan.

But it was on this day, the seventh of March, that Webster rose to address a packed house of Senators, newspaper publishers, constituents, and anyone else who could pack their flesh and clothing into the cramped chambers of Congress. Known as one the preeminent orators of his day, Webster typically drew a crowd, but nothing like this day. Crowds flocked to hear him speak today because he was expected to make a profound and decisive statement about the concept of adding more slave states to the union. In effect, though just one man, his comments would help shape the future of the nation. Would the South secede or would the Union hold? The entire weight of this situation seemed to set upon the shoulders of this larger-than-life statesman. Webster rose to his feet and you could have heard a pin hit the floor among the ear-piercing silence. No one was taking shameless selfies or even momentarily distracted while posting these images to Instagram. Every eye in the house drew to this mountain of a man. And that’s when he did it.

He saved the Union. But not in the way you might expect. You might expect that he drew forth about the merits of anti-slavery, compelling his Southern colleagues to see things his way. But that is not what happened. Instead, Webster shocked the crowd and the nation when he said it is better to compromise on such matters than it is to split. He held more dear the connection held between Northern and Southern states than he did any political position. This is not to say that withholding freedom from anyone was the right or best thing to do, but what history teaches us in this moment was that when someone had the courage to RELATE rather than alienate, disaster was averted. Webster never lived to see the Civil war, dying just two years after this speech. But his contribution to the 10-year stalling of this tragic war is undeniable.

Webster’s willingness to reach across the isle and bring people together, even among the harshest of differences and to the detriment of his famed name, is what made him a great statesman. Yes, he was desecrated in Massachusetts by going against his decades-worth of anti-slavery rhetoric and the Northern stance on the issue. But he was willing to RELATE when everyone else wanted to only see the differences.

This piece is not intended to condone the disgusting nature of slavery; history is written and there is nothing I can do to change what is in the past. The stories are just ours to recount. Instead, it is important to learn from our history.

RELATING DURING CULTURAL TRANSITION

Cultural transition is very hard. Again, very hard. As an individual, but especially difficult when navigating these choppy waters at the helm of a struggling expat family. Once the honeymoon phase wears off we are left with a sense of uncertainty about our decision to relocate. Instead of liking the newness of everything, we are now merely disgusted by the different food, driving behavior, work ethics or designs, and most of all the people of this host culture. First of all, relax. This is normal and is an important part of the process of culture shock. We all experience this stuff; some in different ways and to varying degrees. We begin to automatically diverge from the host culture in any way we can. Instead of beginning to dress and talk like a native, we become reclusive and highlight our home cultures in the way we dress and speak. It is as if we want everyone to notice we are not a local.

If you can’t tell already, this is unhealthy. In our efforts to set ourselves apart, we are alienating ourselves from those who wish to embrace us into their respective cultures. Go Culture can help you learn methods and gain necessary tools to navigate these obstacles of acculturation and fight these urges to begin diverging rather than converging with the host culture. Let me say this in a very forthright manner: if you work to separate yourself from the host culture, you will likely succeed; if you work to embed yourself in the host culture, you will likely succeed. Much like in Webster’s case, reaching across the isle to seek common ground and understand one another is just not human nature in most cases. Therein lies just one of the many challenges facing global expats in any form.

Let Go Culture International help you thread this difficult needle. Whether you work in global mobility for corporate clients, send humanitarian relief workers from non-profits, or seek to build or strengthen international education at your institution, Go Culture can help you design a pre-departure assessment and coaching model to improve your expat success rates. Email me at justin@goculture.org to start brainstorming how Go Culture can make you the hero of your organization.

Justin

In a COVID-19 era, our solution is remote and removes the need for face-to-face interaction.