Nation Building Begins at Home

I just read "Who Will Tell the People?" a fantastic New York Times op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman. As we were wrestling with the decision to move to Singapore, I remembered seeing Friedman on the Colbert Report discussing  his latest book The World is Flat, so I checked it out from the library. I found it well written, well reasoned, and persuasive in a distinctly global (rather than nationalistic) way.

Here is an excerpt from his piece today that caught my eye:

"A few weeks ago, my wife and I flew from New York’s Kennedy Airport to Singapore. In J.F.K.’s waiting lounge we could barely find a place to sit. Eighteen hours later, we landed at Singapore’s ultramodern airport, with free Internet portals and children’s play zones throughout. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the Flintstones to the Jetsons. If all Americans could compare Berlin’s luxurious central train station today with the grimy, decrepit Penn Station in New York City, they would swear we were the ones who lost World War II.

How could this be? We are a great power. How could we be borrowing money from Singapore? Maybe it’s because Singapore is investing billions of dollars, from its own savings, into infrastructure and scientific research to attract the world’s best talent — including Americans."

Did you catch that last bit there? To that sentiment, let me add a few personal observations.

While my employer is Lucasfilm Animation Singapore, the program that I run, The Jedi Masters Program, is run in partnership with the Singapore Economic Development Board. When I participate in (frequent) national education round-tables, school shows and open houses, representatives of the EDB are always there…along with folks from the Media Development Authority and several other economic and business development agencies. These are art, design and animation schools, people! And, before you ask, yes, I have indeed met most of the people performing in the MDA's notorious rap video. They are all lovely people and I'm sure they live gangsta' gangsta' on the rough streets of Katong on weekends.

My point is that, as Friedman notes, Singapore is investing in new business areas by investing in education and by seeking partnerships and expertise from those who have proven themselves in those areas internationally. The main thesis of his piece is that the people of the United States want to do the same thing, to invest in the future of their own country. But they yearn to be prudent investors and not behave like the day-traders who have squandered the savings of a nation on get rich quick schemes and no-interest loans to their shifty friends.

And yes, Singapore's airport is one of the most impressive I've ever flown into…in fact, I often take Singapore's impressive rail system one stop to go there for lunch.

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1 comment on “Nation Building Begins at Home

  1. We felt, as we have before, like we had just flown from the
    Flintstones to the Jetsons.I've kind of been struggling with this feeling since leaving the States, and not just about the airports and infrastructure, but pretty much across the board with every aspect of daily life. It's tough to put into words without slagging on the US or putting down my fellow countrymen, but there are some rough truths and reality checks in store for anyone who still believes the US is uniquely superior to any other superpower (or probably dozens of non-super-power countries).Care and pride and investment can be seen on every carefully-tended street corner here, whereas pictures from my old cherished 'hood in SF – arguably one of the priciest neighborhoods to live in anywhere – almost brought tears to my eyes because without my rose-colored goggles of love on it's such a dump, relatively speaking.I remember when I was growing up overseas the US had an awesome
    shininess to it; home-leaves were approached with apprehension and
    fear, wondering what cool new clothes we were going to discover, the hot new TV shows, the biggest superstars, the ideologies that
    everyone else would be parroting many months later around the world. The
    US dictated the tones and the trends for every facet of life for us; there was no match for it. Just being American, a little of that shininess rubbed off onto you. It's very odd now to stand again away from it all, and realize those days are long over… but has anyone over there figured it out yet? It's hard to tell.

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