“That Used to Be Us: Part V: Rediscovering America”

Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V: Rediscovering America

The authors reiterate that they are “frustrated optimists” who are inspired by “the number of people and small groups who are summoning themselves with their own trumpets.”

Good Signs

Sacrifice—soldiers who are willing to re-deploy to wars in the Middle East. “Never have so many asked so much of so few—and never have those few delivered so much for so many and asked so little in return.” (Again, a good book on what that sacrifice is like is War by Sebastian Junger.)

Diversity—example of the US military and particularly the Navy. “It’s amazing how you guys can be so many religions, ethnic groups, and still make this thing work, and be the best in the world.” (Authors paraphrasing an Iraqi coast guard officer)

Teach for America—“Kopp said that of all the TFA grads, about one-third stay on as teachers. . . . Not all education experts support the program, because it puts the least experienced teachers in the most challenging classrooms. It will take more time to determine how much of a difference TFA teachers are making in the lives of children . . .”

Inventors—Mike Biddle, founder of MBA Polymers, has invented processes fro separating plastic form pile sof junked computers, etc. and recycling it, using less than 10% of the energy used in making new plastic. (However, he uses plastics from China and the EU because America doesn’t have laws that require manufactures to foot the bill for recycling. According to the authors, manufacturers don’t mind these laws because recyclers compete for the junk.)

Companies that stick it out with American manufacturing and workers. “The role of the CEO now is not to dictate but to empower.” (Robert Stevenson, whose company is the oldest manufacturer in continuous operation in Buffalo, New York.) “Get your people working toward a common goal. . . .I set the goal and show the road and say, ‘How you drive on that is up to you.’”

Last thoughts:

America needs a comprehensive 21st century job strategy. We need to address the “growing mismatch between the needs of the employers and the skills American workers get in school and in the job market.” With this in mind, it’s time to begin again to finance start up companies. (Government involvement, regulations, standards are necessary, but must be clear and simple.)

In the section entitled “Shock Therapy,” the authors say that America needs to understand that it is “’an anchor to the floating world.’ Weaken that anchor and the world will drift in directions we cannot foresee and probably will not like. A declining America will be bad for business—all business, including [that of every country in the world].”

To succeed in a way that will keep the world afloat, America needs a politics of the “radical center.” Moderates are not lukewarm–they are reasonable, and they compromise and get things done. A way of mandating change as a moderate is to have a third party candidate in national elections. Though the candidate won’t be elected, s/he will serve to moderate the opposite ends of the spectrum and influence national policy. S/he will affect the agenda of the two major parties.

The authors claim that voting for a third party candidate is not ‘throwing away’ a vote, and give the (unfortunate) example of George Wallace, but also of Ross Perot, and of the Progressives and Teddy Roosevelt. (I don’t entirely agree that a third party vote isn’t thrown away. I think of the example of Ralph Nader—not in this book. Whether you are a Democrat or not, you’d probably agree that folks who voted for Nader in the Bush v. Gore contest, ended up throwing their votes away by assuring the election of someone whose priorities were far from their own.)

The candidate that America should elect is the one who will specify which taxes s/he will raise and which programs s/he will cut, since both must happen.

Calling America exceptional doesn’t make it so and doesn’t help us. Exceptionalism isn’t a permanent state. We have to make sacrifices and get back on track


About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
This entry was posted in Controversial Issue/Debate, Environmental Issues, Non-fiction and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s