Perhaps a few weeks isn’t adequate time to make this assertion, but I am convinced that my opinion is an informed one, and one shared with many others.
An impressive number of Americans, God Bless their souls, are blissfully unaware of the rest of humanity. And I say this with all the affection and love for a nation and people who have given me much. I love your freedom, your ideals, your liberty and your constitution. I love your sense of nationalism. I love your burghers, your cars and your quirky use of English. I think your women are beautiful and confusing, just like your roads.
The first time I came here was in 1995 as a 17 year old. It changed my life and inspired me to be who I am today. But what I see today, is a very different America. The 17 year olds who were my peers at the American Youth Foundation Leadership Conference at Cedar Lake, in California in ’95 were remarkably well informed. And this, at a time the internet had hardly raised its head. But the introversion I see today, particularly and shockingly amongst tomorrows American journalists, is truly scary.
This is not a game of skin the cat. No one is to be blamed. It is the extension of a national psychie that needs reflection. Speaking specifically of our present circumstance, I find that most talks, speeches and examples students are exposed to are narrow in their scope. American students need to experience what real journalism is all about. And I say this fully knowing that this may be a tinderbox, in terms of what I would define to be real journalism. This is not to say that the only real journalists around come from disadvantaged parts of the world. Not at all. In fact some of the world’s preeminent scribes are from America. Len Downie to name but one. However, journalists are way too concerned about blogging, ‘facebooking’ & twittering, and just not enough about Pakistan and Sudan and China.
America, you know enough about yourself. You are great, and most of the world loves you. The time is now ripe, to do what your forefathers did all those years ago: Explore new horizons. Look outwards. Move out of your safe harbor. It is what makes America, America. It is in your DNA. We will all learn social media one way or another. But understanding why it is rude to say “I can’t deal with it now, I’m on vacation” to someone from a Southeast Asian nation where people work 18 hours a day and are driving the global economy, is naïve to say the least. Take the time to know what journalists around the world stand up for, and the price they pay for it. Go there. Spend time with them. Share their joys and pains. Smile with them, eat with them, and immerse yourself in their culture. Then, and only then, would you know what it is to be a journalist. A doctrate from NASA doesn’t make you an astronaut. Taking the flight out of our atmosphere into the unknown, does.