Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fareed Zakaria and the American Dream

This afternoon, driving home from Cape Cod, I heard a mesmerizing program by satellite. Fareed Zakaria was talking about recovering the American Dream (his current project). I found it so compelling that I could not even pull over to go to a rest stop until it was over.

He had four top CEOs to testify--Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Google, and IBM. They described the effects of globalization and other factors on their businesses. (staggering fact: Coca-Cola has plants in more countries than are in the United Nations, including Afghanistan, Gaza, and soon Inner Mongolia)

Zakaria is a stunningly intelligent analyst and a master of the English language (like a lot of foreign-born people, he speaks it better than many natives). It is very obvious that he cares deeply about his adopted country. Like an increasing number of other observers, he is very worried about the slippage in America's ratings compared to other countries, especially in education. He urges investment and innovation over consumption (sounds like a Christian theme). He is very concerned about our underpaid teaching profession (hear, hear). He believes in retraining for those who have lost jobs. He explained how massive government investment made innovation possible--NASA was behind GPS, for example--therefore he favors an innovation/investment tax. And, of course, like so many other observers, he calls urgently for a dramatic beefing up of education in science and math.

Zakaria wants to help young Americans commit themselves wholeheartedly to useful professions and trades. He listed a fascinating long series of occupations that will always be needed and can never be shipped overseas--electricians, dentists, interior decorators, exterminators and on and on--as a way of encouraging Americans to get trained in useful, stay-in-America vocations. He spoke very eloquently about learning a profession or trade as a form of art or craft, something one can be proud of and market as a superior product. I thought right away of the landscaer and stoneworker who just rebuilt our patio superbly, the cabinetmaker who made our kitchen table by hand, and the wonderful seamstress I had who could do absolutely anything to remake a garment. When she died recently there were a lot of bereaved people all over this area. Useful work! how wonderful that is.