On America’s Greatness — for the 4th of July, from Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World

Business books celebrate our freedom, and business leaders are full participants in the American experiment.   But one author in particular brings a unique perspective.  Fareed Zakaria arrived in this country at age 18.  He has written about freedom in his book The Future of Freedom:  Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad.  But it is his closing passage from his best-selling book The Post-American World that is worthy of our attention on this 4th of July weekend.  It speaks of difficulty, yet of hope and promise.  Here it is in its entirety:

In the fall of 1982, I arrived here as an eighteen-year-old student from India, eight thousand miles away.  America was in rough shape.  That December, unemployment hit 10.8 percent, higher than at any point since World War II.  Interest rates hovered around 15 percent.  Vietnam, Watergate, the energy crisis, and the Iranian hostage crisis had all battered American confidence.  Images of helicopters on the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon, of Nixon resigning, of long lines at gas stations, and of the hostages blindfolded were all fresh in people’s minds.  The Soviet Union was on a roll, expanding its influence far beyond its border, from Afghanistan to Angola to Central America.  That June, Israel invaded Lebanon, making a volatile situation in the Middle East even more tense.

Yet America was a strikingly open and expansive country.  Reagan embodied it.  Despite record-low approval ratings at the time, he exuded optimism from the center of the storm.  In the face of Moscow’s rising power, he confidently spoke of a mortal crisis in the Soviet system and predicted that it would end up on “the ash heap of history.”  Across the political aisle stood Thomas (Tip) O’Neill, the hearty Irish-American Speaker of the House, who personified the generosity and tolerance of old-school liberalism.  Everywhere I went, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming.   It was a feeling I had never felt before, a country wide open to the world, to the future, and to anyone who loved it.  To a young visitor, it seemed to offer unlimited generosity and promise.

For America to thrive in this new and challenging era, for it to succeed amid the rise of the rest, it need fulfill only one test.  It should be a place that is as inviting and exciting to the young student who enters the country today as it was for this awkward eighteen-year-old a generation ago.

Happy 4th of July!

{I have read, but have not presented a synopsis of, The Future of Freedom.  To purchase my synopsis of The Post-American World, with handout + audio, go to our 15 Minute Business Book site}.

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