Tag Archives: leadership

Complex and Beautiful

Complex an Beautiful

Complex and Beautiful

 GlobalWonk came upon this tree in the Emperor’s Garden in the Forbidden City. It’s gnarled branches analogous to the complex relationship between the United States and China. There will be twists and turns. It will not always be pretty. But, if the roots are solid, and it is nurtured properly, it will live on for generations to come.

As China’s wealth and influence grow, our interests will collide. Now is the time to nurture, and strengthen the roots of our relationship. To accomplish this we must promote understanding and exchange between our people.

What will you do to make this happen in your community? Reach out to your local members of Congress. Tell them your thoughts on these issues. Get with the school board. Does a local university have a China program you can tap into for content, or volunteers, for developing a cultural awareness program in your primary schools?

In a decade it could be your child manning battle stations on a warship. Loading armaments onto fighter planes, or aligning the sites of their rifle center mass on the silhouette of a counterpart from China. If we choose to do nothing, ten years hence we will wonder what could have been.


Phenom Obama

America's New First Family

America's New First Family

When I first became aware of Barack Obama he reminded me of Bobby Kennedy. Young, energetic, very bright. More than that, they both seem to me to have been men supremely suited to their times. The assassination of RFK robbed us of the man with the best opportunity to bridge the racial divide in 1968. His impassioned speech to the crowd in Indianapolis on the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated cemented his singular ability to bring us together. He shared the pain of losing a brother to a white assassin’s bullet. He urged the crowd not to give in to revenge and hatred. In just two months, he himself would lie mortally wounded in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. His life’s blood flowing from a gun shot wound to the head.

President-Elect Barack Obama is a man suited for his time. He has always superbly handled opportunity. When given one he has consistently knocked it out of the park. He has done so at Harvard, in the race for the Senate, his 2004 convention speech, the presidential election, and as a father (his daughters are by all accounts little gems).

It would be a tragedy of incomprehensible proportions for the United States were something to happen to this man before he has the chance to apply his many talents to the troubles we face domestically and abroad. Knowing the training and professionalism of the United States Secret Service personnel charged with his safety; I rest easier, knowing how hard they will work to ensure he has the opportunity to do so.

I began to think about the 2008 election. How historic it was. Hillary, Barack, and Sarah. All firsts of one sort or another. How in the hell did a black man with the name Barack Hussein Obama not only obtain his party’s nomination, but actually get elected to the highest office in the land? Some say the most powerful office in the world.

Now, I don’t profess to have insider information. There will be books written for years on this election. On Obama’s campaign. I would like to point out my thoughts on why, in 2008, Barack Obama was deemed electable by a majority of American voters.

First some background. I was born on the South Side of Chicago. The “South Side Irish” from a neighborhood called Roseland. It lies more than one hundred city blocks south of The Loop, or downtown Chicago. In 1970, when black people began moving into Roseland, my parents, and their parents, moved from the city to the south suburbs of Chicago.

Blacks brought crime and drugs, we were told. Black kids beat up my brother and stole his bicycle, I was told. Blacks meant our home would sell for less if we waited too long, we were told.

The N-word was not something we thought about much. It was used all the time. From my earliest memories that is how people in my life described black people to me. That N-word at work. The N-word on the corner. Those N-words on welfare…. I truly believed all black people were on welfare when I was a child.

These migrations, or emigrations from the city to the suburbs became known as “White Flight”. When the first black family bought a home in the neighborhood the stampede began. You didn’t want to be the last person to sell your house. It was kind of like being the one left without a chair when the music stopped. My parents would take flight again just thirteen years later. Relocating from the South Suburbs to the Brighton Park neighborhood of Chicago.

This is the background in which I developed. When I went to high school black kids were bussed from other towns into our school. White kids from our school were sent out of town to their school. Neither wanted to be relocated. Being at the sharp end of a social experiment created friction. Friction led to fighting. These situations played out across many suburbs of America in the late seventies and early eighties.

I graduated High School and joined the United States Army. I was immediately thrown into a world where black and white blurred. You didn’t care what color the guy was that had your back, as long as he was Army green. I was led by black soldiers, and I was given the opportunity to lead. In short, I was freed from the ignorance of the environment I was brought up in.

I had children very young. I consciously brought them up not to see color. They lived in multi-cultural environments with military families of all types. They had white friends, black friends, and Hispanic friends. The N-word was not used in our home.

How did Barack become electable? He became electable because people in America changed their mindset. Over a period of a generation or so, Gen X’ers became educated and rejected the institutional racism of previous generations. They also raised their children, who became of voting age in the 2008 election, not to see color first. We did not indoctrinate our children into a culture of racial distrust or hatred.

So the question becomes; How in the hell does this apply to China? Well, I believe it does in a very big way. I believe we need to change the mindset of the American public on their views on China. I believe we need to do this quickly before the United States and China get themselves on a collision course with destiny.

So how do we change this mindset? We do it in the same way we did it on race. Expose your children to Chinese people and culture. Replace stereotypes with positive experiences. Teach your children not to distrust. GlobalWonk will be focusing on opportunities to educate Chinese and American people, particularly our youth, on the many positive aspects of our respective cultures.

You can start today with your own family. Read your child a book about China. Take them on a trip to Chinatown in a city near you. Introduce them to Chinese friends and associates. Get involved with their school and get culture on the curriculum. Talk to your local representatives of government and share your concerns with them.

The opportunity to prevent these same children, our children, from fighting a war with the Chinese twenty years from now, presents itself now. What are you going to do to make a difference?

Where was General Marshall when we needed him?

Cold War Globe 

It is the summer of 1992.

In the previous three years:

  1. Eastern Europe has become democratic.
  2. The Berlin Wall fell.
  3. Germany reunited.
  4. President George H.W. Bush grounded Looking Glass.
  5. Hardliners attempted to overthrow Gorbachev.
  6. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) ceased to exist.
  7. The Cold War ended.
  8. The United States military dealt a stunning defeat to Saddam’s vaunted military

The United States stood at a moment of singularity. Our power and prestige were at their pinnacle. Unchallenged.

Did we use this unprecedented position and influence to help shape the future of the world for the betterment of all mankind? Did we help Russia, and the other former Soviet republics, assimilate into the world economy? Did we work hard enough to understand the internal dynamics of Chinese society in order to nuture a positive orientation to the United States during their economic resurgence?

Did we wage peace?

After forty years of conflict with the Soviet Union in an epic battle of ideologies; why did we have no Marshall Plan to secure the peace and rebuild regions of the world that had stagnated and fallen behind under the grip of communism?

The only screams I remember hearing out of Congress were from narrow-minded members seeking a “peace dividend”. The United States Army, the same force that performed so brilliantly in the Gulf War, was cut in half.

All of the finger pointing now about overtaxing Guard and Reserve troops is a direct result of this demand by Congress for a peace dividend in 1992. Congress knowingly cut the Army’s troop strength in half. They burdened the Guard and Reserve with missions formerly assigned to active duty units. Fast forward nine years to the Summer of 2001. Enter your local high school kid looking to serve their country for a few years locally while finishing school or working to save enough money to do so. If he has been lucky enough to not have been injured, that kid has just served two extended tours in Iraq within three years.

The term ‘You reap what you sow.’ comes to mind. We failed to take advantage of our unprecedented opportunity in the early nineties. We were all too enamored with Windows, and our Internet stock portfolios. Many of the issues we are facing now, and into the foreseeable future, are the direct result of neglecting key strategic relationships throughout the nineties.

This is not a partisan slap at any one party or administration. Both parties failed us. We need leadership at all levels of our government that are willing to plant seeds and nurture our global relationships. We can not afford to fail now. Me must use all of our hard and soft power to wage peace and secure a future for all the world’s children.

The Truth About Inconvenience

Al Gore

You would be hard-pressed to find former Vice President Albert Gore Jr. and myself simpatico on many issues. However, I admire him for the passion he has exhibited on environmental issues dating back to his early college years. He stuck his neck out, and put his credibility on the line, when no other political figures of his stature were willing to do so. He wrote his first book, Earth in the Balance, way back in 1992 when global warming wasn’t a sexy issue. For these reasons GlobalWonk applauds his receipt of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. (We were also happy to see him win the Oscar earlier this year.)

Unfortunately there are too few politicians, and leaders in all parts of society, willing to make the tough calls necessary to get the United States on a track that leads to sustainable growth, peace and prosperity. Let me preface the comments below by saying that I love my country. I served almost ten years active duty in our Armed Forces. I am saying these things because we need to make changes if we are to remain a great and free nation. Consider the following:

  1. What are we going to do about Social Security? We have seniors in our country that choose between food or medicine every night. The problem will only get worse. 2007 is the first year of the decade-plus wave of Baby Boomer retirees being added to an already strained system.
  2. Why are we not energy independent thirty-four years after the 1973 Oil Embargo that awoke a sleeping nation to the fact we were importing more oil than we were producing for the first time in our history; even though our government, and industry insiders, knew the inevitability of this as early as WWII.
  3. As of this posting the United States is $9.049 TRILLION in debt. This number increase by $1.42 Billion per day. This amounts to $29,838.44 per man, woman, and child living in our country. What happens when our financial system becomes so dire that nations like China and Japan cease buying our public debt? What if they decide the European Union, and the Euro, is a safer bet for their reserve currencies than the dollar?

We need strong leaders to make us confront these, and many other, critical issues. We need them because most Americans are unable, or unwilling, to face these issues themselves.

  • We all know that Social Security may not be there for us as it was for our parent’s and grandparent’s retirement. Yet we are one of the least saving societies on the planet.
  • We know we are trading lives and treasure every day to maintain our, and the world’s, free access to (relatively) cheap energy via Middle Eastern petroleum. Yet we drive cars larger than the homes of people in more modest countries.
  • We know our country is deeply in debt. Yet we continue to expect the same level of government services and vote for politicians that bring the pork home in the form of pet projects and federally funded jobs.

We Americans will not change our ways until it becomes uncomfortable. I call this The Truth About Inconvenience. Sure, we should all drive a hybrid. But the kids can’t watch their DVDs in the back while they are driven the quarter-mile to soccer practice. We all talk the talk, but we do not want to be inconvenienced by having to walk the walk. The only way to get rid of gas guzzling monster trucks is to make fueling them cost prohibitive. I am certainly not a fan of higher taxes. I am however, a realist. There is a time and a place for government to step in and coerce activity that is conducive to progress for the public good.

Ridiculously expensive gasoline would also make people think twice about that eighth-of-a-mile trip to the gas station for the 300 oz. diet Dr. Pepper. We might actually walk more. Hey, we might even build sub-divisions with sidewalks that connect to each other, kinda like a community.You might meet your neighbors while walking to the store to pick-up a few things for dinner. Knowing your neighbor might encourage you not to call the cops the next time their kid crosses through your yard and steps on your perennials. We might all keep an eye on each other’s kids.

Ridiculously expensive gasoline would encourage the use of public transportation. It would spur venture capital investment in new energy technologies. This will create entirely new sectors of the economy (think Silicon Valley and the computer). They will innovate new products and potentially new energy sources. This will spur our economy which would generate more tax revenue and allow us to pay down the national debt. And so on, and so on…..

So, where do we find these leaders? Where is our Harry Truman? Where is our F.D.R.? Where is our Abraham Lincoln? If you spot one of these type leaders in the Presidential Debates, please drop me a line. We need a hero.