By Peter Sims
The opinions expressed are his own.
With Europe on the precipice, economically and politically, and U.S. institutions experiencing a significant crisis of moral leadership in the wake of the debt ceiling debacle, any student of history can predict that the world is approaching an inflection point.
Into this period of enormous uncertainty (and leadership vacuum) steps Thomas L. Friedman, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist, with his latest book That Used to Be US: How America Fell Behind the World it Invented and How We Can Come Back.
Coauthored with Friedman’s close personal friend, Michael Mandelbaum, who is a Professor of American Foreign Policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the authors set out to diagnose and frame a national dialogue and a set of possible solutions about a way forward.
Although the book has two authors, it reads much like Friedman’s other best-selling books, most recently The World is Flat, structured around a series of key arguments, themes, and insights and, of course, stories and memorable phrases.
The authors begin to lay out a major national problem by saying: “People have sort of gotten used to it.” That is, they argue, Americans have developed a certain resignation that America’s best days are behind it, while China’s best days are ahead. We hear a range of voices illustrating the national malaise, ranging from teachers to former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who declared, “We’ve become a nation of wusses,” after the NFL postponed a Philadelphia Eagles football game due to snow. “The Chinese are kicking our butt at everything,” Rendell went onto say, “If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game?”