Photo by Beth Wade
New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman was on the Southwestern University campus to speak to students, faculty and community members as part of the Roy & Margaret Shilling Lecture Series on Feb. 28.
Friedman, who co-authored “That Used to Be Us” with Michael Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, spoke about themes in the book.
“When people hear the title, ‘That Used to Be Us,’ the first question they ask is, ‘but does it have a happy ending?’ And we say it does,” Friedman said.
The book analyzes four major challenges the authors feel the United States is facing, including “globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits, and its pattern of energy consumption—and spell out what we need to do now to rediscover America and rise to this moment.”
“We noticed something two or three years ago. We noticed that every conversation would begin by starting out talking about the world, but we would end talking about America,” Friedman said. “America—its fate and future, its vigor and vitality—was really now the biggest foreign policy issue in the world.”
Throughout the presentation, Friedman pointed out challenges individual students might face in the new “hyper-connected” world when seeking employment after graduation. He said the biggest challenge was the merger of globalization and the IT revolution.
“The whole global curve has risen, and as a result average is officially over,” he said, referring to the globalization of marketplaces and education. “We now live in a world where 'average' is over because I now have access to so much more above-average talent.”
Friedman encouraged students as they enter the workforce to find their added value or extra skills and continue to evolve and be involved in life-long learning. He said the new employee must be able to engage in critical thinking and problem solving.
His speech also touched on the political climate and how he feels America can get back to where it needs to be by going back to what he said were the five pillars on which the country was built: education, infrastructure, immigration, rules and regulation—rules that incentivize risk-taking, but prevented chaos—and government-funded research.
"We have a formula for success that was started by the earliest founders, [such as Alexander] Hamilton and president Lincoln, and it was repeated and nourished through every great presidency from the Roosevelts, the Eisenhowers, Nixon to the present almost," he said. "What was that formula? It was the world's greatest public and private partnership."
After his lecture, Friedman was questioned by political science and environmental studies student Katherine Tanner and Political science and economics student Isidoro Ramirez Jr.
The Roy & Mararet Shilling Lecture Series was established by the Brown Foundation Inc. of Houston and named for Southwestern’s 13th president, Roy Shilling. The first lecture was held in 2000.