“The great problems our world faces, from climate change to global terrorism, cannot be solved by the unilateral action of one nation.” – Blair Crossman
Throughout his many endeavors and experiences, Blair Crossman’s thoughts have had a tendency to converge on the issue of solving the world’s great problems. As a sophomore at Pomona College, he studied the group dynamics in a campus conflict between the administration and the dining hall staff over unionization and gained a core understanding of conflict resolution.
“Once the opposing sides in the struggle begin to see their opposition not as human beings, but as simply them, or the out group,” Blair says, “recognizing the validity and complexity of each other’s goals and motives becomes far more difficult.”
Those who favored the dining hall staff demonized the administration, and from that point, projected harsh motives, such as the continued exploitation of the workers, “completely stripping the College of any humanity or moral agency.” Unionization won out, but Blair believes that hostilities could have been ameliorated had there been sincere, open communication between the two parties. Bringing negotiations back to the human level enables respectful, productive dialogue with the aim of resolution.
“I get a great deal of personal satisfaction out of helping others and ensuring their well-being, be it emotional, physical, academic, or otherwise,” Blair says. This trait lies at the heart of his attunement toward solutions and peacekeeping—his true calling. Three completely diverse experiences have further channeled him in this direction.
From his experience with performing arts beginning at a young age, he learned to overcome anxiety in order to present something of worth to the audience and hold their attention. He has played musical instruments on stage and in an orchestra, performed in a Shakespearean role as a freshman in front of the entire high school, and acted in “Fiddler on the Roof.” He developed a surface composure, hiding all frenzied preparation and worry over possible flaws, a skill he has carried into public speaking and into his presence as a leader.
Also in high school, Blair participated in NJROTC (NJ for Navy Junior) where he learned never to lose his temper either with a subordinate or a leader, taking grievances to individuals at a time that was mutually agreeable and at a place that was safe for both parties. He found that this technique reduces the stress levels of everyone involved and prevents whoever is being addressed from feeling attacked or backed into a corner. He acquired strategies designed to assist in conflict mediation, de-escalation, and a different kind of leadership presence.
Out of a need to give back to the community that had guided him, Blair participated in Residence Hall Staff training and became a sponsor in his sophomore year, living with a group of fifteen first-year students. The training included conciliatory patterns of speech and formulas for eliciting peaceful conclusions from parties in dispute—similar to HSI’s conflict resolution workshop. When necessary, he learned to inject himself into a conflict in order to de-escalate it. These skills plus his natural ease in talking to others about their problems and maintaining a level head in highly charged discussions have further honed his leadership skills.
“I want to see the world,” Blair says, “and I want to change it.” Though he is interested in the environment and such enterprises as Terracycle, he believes that working for the Department of State as a Foreign Service officer would offer the right career path for him. He believes American diplomacy is not only desired in the world, but is a necessary part of resolving many of the world’s greatest conflicts. “We have a responsibility to use our power not to dominate and exploit but to liberate and empower.” The Department of State needs strong, passionate, and brave individuals “to give the world the helping hand it needs.” Blair Crossman wants to step forward to extend that hand.