Dr. Fareed Zakaria shared his global perspective on America, including our economy and political system, during a special lecture for Queens students recently.
The author, Time magazine editor and host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on CNN also gave a rousing evening lecture at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center sponsored by The Learning Society at Queens on Oct. 26.
During the student program, Zakaria shared insights about how the world has "flip-flopped" since his childhood in India in the 1960s and 1970s, when America seemed like the center of the universe.
"In India we all had this fantasy of America that was fueled by programs like 'Dallas' and movies," he said. "We thought America was a little vulgar, a little tacky, but rich... And now, it's like the world has been struck upside down. Indians are bursting with energy while Americans are gloomy and have a fatalistic view of the future."
He shared anecdotes about his recent tour of the Tata Motors company which is developing a compact car called "The Nano" which is similar to Mercedes-Benz's Smart Car but will cost about $7,000 instead of $22,000. This type of innovation, he said, should be happening much more often and more rapidly in the U.S.
He gave context about how America led the way in manufacturing and trade for most of the 20th Century and then began to lose its foothold for a host of complex reasons. He highlighted our modern overspending on credit cards and burst housing bubble as root causes for the prolonged current recession and urged students to become active in the political process to affect change.
"It was such a privilege to sit and listen to Dr. Zakaria and I absorbed so much knowledge during his speech," said junior Brittani Hunter, a communication major. "When explaining each topic he took time to explore both sides of the issue, providing a thorough understanding for everyone in attendance. His brilliant thoughts, sprinkled with a few humorous lines, created a captivating speech. I walked away with a more open and optimistic mindset."
After his daytime lecture, students asked Zakaria how he believes America can recover and he listed focusing on non-partisan legislation to repair the broken economy and reducing our consumption while increasing our exports to restore our place as a leader in global trade as top priorities.
"Coca-Cola has 81 percent of its revenue outside the U.S. and 85 percent of its workforce outside the U.S." he said. "It's truly a global company that just happens to be headquartered in Atlanta. And IBM is in a very similar position."
America, he said, is no longer simply outsourcing to countries with cheaper labor and capital costs. We're now moving entire operations overseas while hardly investing back at home while we should be a leader in technology innovation.
Zakaria said a quote from author F. Scott Fitzgerald comes to mind when he thinks about America rebounding and said he's very encouraged that it will happen sooner than many people fear.
"Fitzgerald said 'There are no second acts in American life,' but it occurs to me that America is all about second acts," he said. "Look at CNN with Elliott Spitzer now a TV host."