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Lack of Leadership Hindering an Explosion of Innovation

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman discusses the need for Energy Revolution

By Russell Guerrero ’83

Thomas Friedman at Trinity
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman talks to Trinity students during a question and answer session in the Coates University Center Fiesta Room. Mr. Friedman was the speaker for the University’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

February 2010 — America is exploding from the ground up with innovation, however a lack of  leadership from Washington is limiting just how far that innovation will affect positive change. Thomas Friedman, The New York Times foreign affairs columnist and author of the bestseller Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How It Can Change America, spoke of the dilemma as the guest speaker of Trinity University’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Mr. Friedman spoke to an audience of 2,000 people at Trinity’s Laurie Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

With an affable and animated manner that engaged his audience and helped alleviate his oftentimes dire message, Mr. Friedman talked about the breakdown of leadership. “Our country at the political level is not working right now,” he said.

Mr. Friedman gave several reasons for the paralysis including the gerrymandering of congressional districts, the amount of money in politics, and the establishment of a permanent presidential campaign season.

At the same time, Mr. Friedman he said has seen an extraordinary amount of innovation coming at a grassroots level, especially in the green and energy sectors. “What it tells me is that our country is incredibly alive,” he said.

Thomas Friedman at Trinity
At the end of a question and answer session Trinity students had a chance to meet with Mr. Friedman.

However, the innovation has been stifled by the lack of leadership and is preventing the country from taking great strides in Energy Technology (ET), which Mr. Friedman believes will be the next major industrial revolution.

The ET revolution will be important, said Mr. Friedman, because the world is becoming “hot, flat, and crowded.” He explained that global warming, the rise of the middle class around the world and their increasing use of resources, and the overall rise in  population, is making life difficult, if not impossible to maintain. “If we don’t redefine in more sustainable terms what it means to live an American lifestyle…we are going to burn up, choke up, heat up, eat up, and smoke up this planet.”

The key to solving these massive problems will be the creation of abundant, cheap, clean, and reliable electrons. The country that creates this technology will have economic and political security as well as respect from the rest of the world “and I want that country to be the United States,” said Mr. Friedman.

As with any revolution, Mr. Friedman said, sacrifices will have to be made and there will be no easy fix.

 “We need to get back to work on our country and our planet,” concluded Mr. Friedman. “The stakes could not be higher, the project could not be harder, and the payoff could not be greater. And we have just enough time, starting now.”

Earlier, Mr. Friedman met with  Trinity students for an informal question and answer session which touched on a variety of issues including the war on terrorism and how a need for oil negatively impacts the spread of democracy across the world.

The Trinity University Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible by an endowment gift from Mr. and Mrs. Walter F. Brown of San Antonio.

© 2010 Trinity University

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