Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, came to GW on Thursday (as Charlie so kindly wrote about last week). I was lucky enough to not only attend his lecture, but also to have won the SMPA raffle to sit down with him and fourteen other students for a “conversation.”
His lecture, a discussion about his new book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, and about the future of our planet, was stimulating. The book mainly expresses the idea that it is not a coincidence that the global warming crisis and our current economic recession peaked at the same time: that the two are inherently linked and the way to dig ourselves out of this economic crisis is with innovation and creation in the “energy technology” (his term) industry. He stressed that America needs to create the next eco-friendly version of Google to remain the only super-power and that we’re racing against China to do so. It’s an interesting perspective, especially while our class reads Ken Auletta's Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.
But it was the conversation with Mr. Friedman that was more inspiring. The raffle was for SMPA majors only, and it was upon Mr. Friedman’s request that he sit down with future journalists that the raffle was offered. The event included a brief bio of Mr. Friedman’s life, and then opened to the students for questions. Mr. Friedman gave honest and thorough responses, even giving us insight into his (then unpublished) Sunday column. He was casual and conversational, and it was a pleasure to be there.After Mr. Friedman left, Frank Sesno, SMPA’s director, continued the conversation with the students. Mr. Sesno is GW's local celebrity, and a very accomplished journalist in his own right. But rather than acting like a CNN-anchor, or even Director of SMPA, he too was laid-back and honest. It was a true conversation, with him acting as an equal to the classroom of students. The fifteen minutes of debate we had in that room was the most interesting “classroom experience” I had had all week. SMPA is filled with some of the best and brightest students of GW, and it was an experience that made me appreciate that fact. I thank Mr. Friedman for the catalyst-role he played.