What is America's greatest challenge?

Topic: America’s Place in the World

Jimmy Wales: The big challenges facing the U.S. in the next decade; I think the U.S. has a lot of work ahead in changing our public image around the world. I think it’s been a real problem in the last 10 years or so [i.e. circa 1997 to 2007], even longer than that.  The fact that we have such a massive and undisputed military superiority has tempted our leaders to go down military paths to solve problems that really are not military problems. This, in turn, has given rise to an enormous amount of ill-will around the world, and a forgetting on our part, and on the part of other people around the world, what the U.S. really could and should stand for symbolically.

The traditional American values of freedom of speech, of toleration of different kinds of people, living together in peace, of being a melting pot culturally, of a real value for education, and higher education in particular, all those kinds of values are really important still around the world, and are something that we should be much more projecting – that benevolent side of what it means to be American. So that it can be something that people look to us and say, “This is actually a model of a society that I would like to live in. And I would like to change my world to be something more like that.”

We have that opportunity, but it gets lost if our answer to any problem around the world is always to send in the bombers. So I think that’s an enormous challenge, to really think about how do we communicate that those values are good values, and that they’re still here. They’re still among us.  Many times I see people overseas that simply assume freedom of speech is dead in the U.S. The Patriot Act has created a police state. Well that’s completely not true. The Patriot Act has some problematic provisions, but it’s fairly minor in the grand scheme of things.  Things need to be fixed to be sure, but we still have this open, vibrant democracy that we have the opportunity to shine around the world, if only we will.

 

 

Recorded On: Aug 10, 2007

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