Zakaria details story behind America’s economic woes

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Zakaria details story behind America’s economic woes

Tom Clement

Tom Clement

Tom Clement

What role does the United States play in a globalized economy that affects everything from jobs to Internet access? Just ask journalist Fareed Zakaria and you might get an idea of his April 10 speech at War Memorial Auditorium, the last in the 2011-12 Bryan Series.

“People in America are very gloomy,” Zakaria said of the national mood. “We’ve lost our mojo.”

Zakaria, introduced by President and Professor of Political Science Kent Chabotar, is the host of CNN’s flagship program on international relations, “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” and an editor-at-large for TIME Magazine.

Born in India before immigrating to the U.S. for college, Zakaria has also written books such as “The Post-American World” and “The Future of Freedom.”

“(Zakaria) is one of the smartest political analysts I have ever read,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “He has an ability to articulate very complex issues clearly, and that is genius.”

With a creased but clean-shaven face, his left hand in his pocket and his right gesturing emphatically to his oration, Zakaria used a blend of examples, personal anecdotes and wit to illustrate just how much the global economic system — and life itself — has changed in the last  thirty or so years.

“People forget how restricted information was until very recently,” Zakaria said, referring back to the “dark age of 1990 … without email, without Blackberries, without iPhones.”

He explained that at one point the government of Saudi Arabia was able to keep Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait a state secret for a whole week, something that would never happen today with the existence of the Internet and Twitter.

Later in the night, Zakaria reined in his focus to the obstacles facing our country’s economic recovery and political process.

Listing various ailments, he put what he called America’s “great disease” into plain light.

“Our problem is that we simply haven’t found a way to get stuff done that needs to be done,” Zakaria said, commenting on our political system and its tendency to avoid challenges.

“Do we have a solution to our immigration problems, which are real and need fixing desperately?” Zakaria asked. “No. So we kick the can down the road.”

Zakaria’s overall style won a positive appraisal from junior Simon Warhaft.

“He was opinionated, for sure,” said Warhaft. “Usually that comes off as arrogant and egotistical, but I felt that it was funny and reflects on his success.”

Junior Christiana Baiden, who is from Ghana, conversed with Zakaria following his speech.

“I was amazed by how much he knew about my home country,” Baiden said, noting that Zakaria knew about recent petroleum discoveries in Ghana. “He knew almost more than me about my own country’s politics.”

While respected by most, Duncan noted that Zakaria’s statements and writings have drawn the ire of some.

“Simply because he says that the world is catching up very rapidly, some people interpret that as ‘the U.S. is not number one,’” Duncan said.

Nonetheless, campus consensus appears positive for Zakaria’s speech.

“I thought he was interesting and pretty accurately summed up what we are going through in our current economy,” senior Anne Rappe said in an email interview. “I had no knowledge of who he was before I went, but I was glad I did.”
Earlier in the day, Zakaria stopped by Guilford for a small group meeting with faculty and students from journalism and global perspectives classes.

At one point, a Guilford employee asked Zakaria if he had any advice for outgoing Guilford graduates.

“Do something you really love,” Zakaria replied.

He noted the positive influence that energetic, motivated interns had on the rest of the workplace on the set of his television program.

“Make yourself needed … do everything you can,” Zakaria said.

The line-up for the 2012-13 Bryan Series was also announced on April 10.

Speakers for next year include Tina Brown, Tom Brokaw, Geoffrey Canada, Caroline Kennedy and Thomas Friedman.

“That’s a great line-up,” said Warhaft, reacting to the news. “Besides Burns and Zakaria, I thought this year’s line-up was lacking.”

For more information on the 2012-13 Bryan Series and the upcoming speakers, please visit bryanseries.guilford.edu.

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