What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Question: How did you get into your line of work?

Armitage:    Well I was on a ship off the coast of Vietnam after I graduated from the Naval Academy.  And then I went three in country tours as an ambush team leader and a senior advisor of the River Patrol Division.  I got out of the . . . out of uniform around the time of the Paris cease fire in 1973 and became an official under the attaché office in Saigon, Vietnam.  And I was there at the fall of Vietnam.  Following that I went to Tehran, Iran where I lived for almost a year with the Defense Representatives’ Office.  Following that I went to Capitol Hill and was Bob Dole’s . . . Senator Bob Dole’s Administrative Assistant.  I joined the George Herbert Walker Bush Campaign in ’79.  And when he became Vice President, I was invited to join the Reagan campaign.  I was a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia, and I was an Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.  Bush 41 appointed me an ambassador to negotiate water in the Middle East, negotiate the Philippine bases; sent me to see King Hussein of Jordan during the Gulf War.  Then finally during the last year and a half of his administration, I was the ambassador in charge of assistance for the states of the former Soviet Union.  And most recently I spent four years as Deputy Secretary of State under the leadership of Secretary of State Colin Powell.   I had the biggest surprise of my life when Her Majesty’s government presented me with a Knighthood – a KCMG, Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.  It was completely unexpected.  It was an enormous honor, and it’s something that my family was quite interested in.  They have not been interested in military decorations I got, or awards I had won in almost 20 years of government service.  But for a knighthood, something stirred in all their breasts, and almost all the kids came, and of course my wife.


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