Wednesday, June 10, 2009
New Chapter in Global Understanding Beginning?
We could have avoided the financial mess we are in
according to incoming dean of Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, Garth Saloner--"If there had been more "critical analytical thinking" about the weirdness of the debt market among executives at financial services institutions, then maybe we wouldn't have plunged into the toxic mess from which we're still struggling to extricate ourselves. So the San Fransico Chronicle reports.
We know we could have avoided the Iraq debacle with a bit more global thinking --as just a symptom of the mindset --we only had a relatively few Arab and Farsi speakers at the State department and elsewhere for too many years. But it is not to recent history we need to look --Vietnam provides a prime example of cultural ignorance when we misunderstood the nationalist struggle that had been going on for hundreds of years in that region and insisted on pasting our own cold war template over it.
But now we are hopefully in a new era--not just signalled with the remarks of the incoming Stanford dean as we have mentioned but with the words of our new President
Barrack Obama. His Cairo speech hit all the right notes. His refererences to his own cross cultural history and his appreciation of the US complex ties with the Muslim world were especially noteworthy:
"I also know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, they have served in our government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they've excelled in our sports arenas, they've won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library. (Applause.)
So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.)
But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words -- within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum -- "Out of many, one."
To read the entire speech click here.
Let us hope we will continue on this path towards greater understanding..