Student reflection on why Philadelphia has played a crucial role in the theme of World Heritage.

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By Sami Pathak, Penn Charter student

As soon as I discovered that a city in the United States would be joining the Organization of World Heritage Cities, I immediately thought of New York City and Washington D.C. New York, a city in which one can find individuals speaking foreign languages more than English, is the most well-known city in the United States. I participated in an exchange program with a school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the first place that the Argentine students wanted to visit in the United States was New York City. Likewise, Washington D.C. bears the prestige of being the capital city of one of the most influential countries in the world. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is the city that gave origin to the United States, whose fame and recognition is enmeshed, just like its geography, between two world powers. When I discovered that Philadelphia would be the world heritage city, I was initially surprised. I have spent the majority of my life in the Philadelphia area, so I have grown accustomed to the city and its traditions. However, after viewing the film that detailed how Philadelphia deserves to be in the organization, I completely agree that Philadelphia has played a crucial role in the theme of world heritage.

The film successfully emphasizes the fact that Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and that profound historical events have happened in the city. Upon viewing the film, I began to understand what makes the city so unique, worthy of becoming a world heritage city: Philadelphia, along with the state of Pennsylvania, promoted religious freedom. In other words, settlers of all religious backgrounds were welcome to reside in Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania. For example, German Quakers settled in a northwest neighborhood of the city, later to accept the name “Germantown.” As a student at the oldest Quaker school in the nation, Philadelphia’s own William Penn Charter School, I have always recognized the importance of William Penn’s quest to provide citizens with a chance to exercise their own beliefs. Philadelphia is the city that represents what Penn strived to achieve.

After viewing the film, we began to discuss Philadelphia and the significance of becoming a World Heritage City. The group consisted of ninth through twelfth graders, so a varying spectrum of opinions were presented. One of the questions that the discussion leaders presented was how Philadelphia can improve in becoming more nationally and internationally recognized. A few students responded that citizens of Philadelphia, along with students from the area, should attempt to travel and engage in study abroad opportunities. By sharing the glory of the city with people from other areas of the world, Philadelphians will promote recognition of the city. Furthermore, Philadelphia has some of the best universities and hospitals in the country. Patients and students travel from all over the country and all over the world to seek treatment at these facilities and enroll at these institutions, respectively. The universities and hospitals should use their recognition to promote awareness of the city of Philadelphia. Overall, Philadelphia has a rich history that has played a fundamental role in the development of not only the United States, but also the idea of freedom. However, just as with many of the cities in the United States, Philadelphia still has certain neighborhoods that experience crime and poverty. As a member of the Organization of World Heritage Cities, Philadelphia will be able to promote its history and encourage domestic and international tourism, which in turn will help to improve the economy of the city and restore Philadelphia to the level of recognition that it deserves.