This is certainly an election of “firsts.”There are, of course, the obvious ones that have been explored in every magazine, news show and newspaper in America.But there’s another that I didn’t realize until, during one of the last soccer games, I was leafing through a copy of World magazine and stopped on a little sidebar (September 20/27, 2008 edition, p. 43) entitled, Third culture kids (if you click to that link, scroll down the page to the blue box for the text).My friend Ruth Van Reken was quoted in the article, pointing out that both John McCain and Barack Obama are Third-Culture Kids — that is, they have spent developmental years outside their passport cultures (a more involved explanation can be found at this link).Missionary kids, military kids, and children of international businessmen and women are all examples of third-culture kids (sometimes referred to interchangeably as “cross-cultural kids,” though TCKs are, according to Ruth, a subset of CCKs).Here’s a fairly short explanation of TCKs:
A TCK is an individual who, after having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than that of their parents, develops a sense of relationship to all of the cultures while not having full ownership in any. Elements from each culture are incorporated into the life experience, but the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar experience.(many thanks to The Irrational Season for pulling the quotation from Third Culture Kids- The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken)
Ruth Van Reken herself has commented on the “huge beneficial factor a truly cross-cultural and internationally mobile childhood affords”:
In our book, Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing Up Among Worlds, Dave Pollock and I write that being a “cultural bridge” is one of the assets gained from such a childhood. A strong sense of confidence, of ability to think “outside the boxes” are others.
Even though Ruth, one of the key speakers at TCK conferences and an author of a book on the subject, is one of my good friends…And even though I’m married to a TCK…It still didn’t occur to me until seeing that article that whether we vote for John McCain or Barack Obama, we will be electing a TCK.