Ann Fudge: “We Are Losing Civility and Openness”

Young and Rubicam’s former CEO finds herself constantly in search of an answer to the question: What is the future of the democracy?
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TRANSCRIPT

Topic: Democracy’s future

Ann Fudge: I think one of the interesting challenges for democracy in our time is the fact that we have so many opportunities for people to express their points of view, whether it’s on the internet and express their points of view not always looking at the facts. So it’s almost like the person who can go and stand up on a soap box and express their feelings, but maybe not really have all the facts. And the interesting dynamic I think which I’m sure we’re going to be studying for awhile and it’s been my career, marketing and communications, is how is communications helping or hurting democracy and how is the spread of the internet and how is the fact that there is so many blog sites, what we would call micro marketing back in the day, to target a lot of different audiences. How does that influence the conversation and the discourse? And I think one of the challenges that we have is sometimes we’re losing the very civility and the openness and the listening to other points of view.

I try to read a vast array of newspapers even if and particularly if I don’t believe or necessarily concur with everything that is in their editorials. But I find that there is always something that makes me pause and think about my view on something because I look at it. Because I look at these two things opposed to one another and say, “You know what? It’s not really black and white.” We really don’t live in a black and white world. There are so many shades of grey and there are elements of that that you know what, I agree with and I surprise myself and I think sometimes we lose that. People don’t allow themselves to be open to people who have different points of view. One of the things that I think is really important and exciting about the global world we live in is that we are so different. I love traveling and learning about new cultures because I think it helps me to open my mind more in the day-to-day living and work that I get involved with.

Question: Do global conversations like the World Economic Forum help?

Ann Fudge: I think they’ve helped to a degree because it starts a conversation and then those people go back. Still, when you think about it, it’s still a very small segment of the population. It’s only been what, maybe three or four years that NGOs have been actively included in the discussions, whereas they weren’t before. I think that inclusion back to listening to perspectives that may be different from yours has been helpful. I think we’ve got to do more of that. We tend to look at Davos, but sometimes the little mini Davos conversation that people can start in their own communities are extremely helpful and looking at things and listening to other perspectives.

Recorded on September 3, 2009