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Video: ‘How to Bring America Back’: Author says focus on education

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    >>> america is in trouble and action is needed today. that's the call in the new book "that used to be us, how america fell behind in a world that invented and how we can come back." it was written by thomas friedman and jobs hopkins, professor. and tom mass homas is joining us this morning. the title of this book comes from really president barack obama who said in 2010 it makes no sense for china to have better rail systems than us and singapore having better airports than us and we just learn that china now has the fastest super computer on earth. that used to be us. what is the biggest reason, tom, that that is no longer us?

    >> ann, we had a formula of pessimists in this country. it goes back to hamilton, lincoln, and pursued by every successful president and it's built on five pillars. whether it was the cotton gin or super computers . attracting the world's best in most energetic talent for the best rules in investing and starting things and, lastly e government funded research. that's the formula for success . if you look at all five, all five, the arrow today is pointing down.

    >> so all five pillars of what you say is america 's really formula for success are now needing shoring up.

    >> right.

    >> on "meet the press" on sunday you went so far as to say we've gone from the greatest generation that saved and invested to the baby boom generation that has become okay with borrowing and spending. so -- and you're a baby boomer so that says a lot about you saying that. what you're really talking about there it seems is diminishing or forgetting of a true american values . if that's true then what values have we forgotten that has now contributed to our falling behind?

    >> sure. the key one, we shifted from what our teachers calls sustainsable values are the greatest generation . you always do and behave in ways that sustain, the country, relationship, environment, to the baby boomer generation of situational values. do whatever the situation allows. the situation allows me to give you a subprooim mortgage for a mm dollars and you're making $10,000, do it even though sustainable values would tell me i shouldn't.

    >> so you're basically saying then what we need to do as parents is -- and ourselves -- rethink ideas about what?

    >> we really think parents need to understand that we're now not just in a connected world, we're in a hyper connected world. when i was on "meet the press" i pointed out that someone was reading their notes on an iphone behind a robotic camera. society is churning more and more jobs in all the time. each of us has to bring now something extra. we have a chapter in the book dedicated to parents called "average is over". everybody's got to find that extra. so we urge parents to get their kids to think in two ways. one likeimmigrant. i'm in a new world. second, nothing is old to me. i've got to work my way to the top. and secondly, this is an idea from larry katz at harvard, everybody has to think like an a artisan.

    >> what we're talking about in talking about that is the idea of education. you mentioned earlier as being one of five pillars that's failing. so what's the fix? we all know some of the best and brightest young people in america are not getting access to education and what's the fix, thomas?

    >> we have two problems. we need to bring the bottom up to the average but we need to bring average so much higher of the world average. that involves not only more education but better education. education that focused on creativity and starting things. people say we need more jobs. we can't stimulate our way out of the problem or bail our way out of the problem. we can only invent our way out of this problem. we need to go back to being that country that is always starting something, starting something, fixing something, repairing something, inventing something. that's where jobs come from.

    >> as an example of that, i mean, the president is unveiling his jobs program coming up on thursday. in the silicon valley they can't even find enough people in america to fill the jobs they've got. it's a fundamental flaw that we're not educating our people to be smart enough for tomorrow, which is coming.

    >> too many people who had talent went to wall street with it. we had a man in the book who says friends don't let friends go into finance. that's good advice to parents. go into engineering, go into science.

    >> the last question, i should mention you're rough on president george w. bush in this book. you're also rough on president obama . and essentially you essentially feel that he is spending way too much time talking about the polls. so what do you think he should be doing? what would be your advice to them?

    >> again, we supported president obama i think because we thought he would change the polls and not read the polls. the big challenge for president obama now is to go big and go long. come up with a program basically that we are all going to get up out of our seats and go, wow, that's something that can renew, reinvigorate and energize this country and get us back to what used to be. that used to be us, ann.

    >> thomas friedman on those last words, thank you so much. that's the title of the book "that used to be us."

TODAY books
updated 9/6/2011 8:12:13 AM ET 2011-09-06T12:12:13

In "That Used to Be Us," Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and author Thomas L. Friedman and leading foreign policy thinker Michael Mandelbaum prescribe a formula to re-establish American greatness. Here's an excerpt.

Preface: Growing Up in America
A reader might ask why two people who have devoted their careers to writing about foreign affairs—one of us as a foreign correspondent and columnist at The New York Times and the other as a professor of American foreign policy at The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies—have collaborated on a book about the American condition today. The answer is simple. We have been friends for more than twenty years, and in that time hardly a week has gone by without our discussing some aspect of international relations and American foreign policy. But in the last couple of years, we started to notice something: Every conversation would begin with foreign policy but end with domestic policy—what was happening, or not happening, in the United States. Try as we might to redirect them, the conversations kept coming back to America and our seeming inability today to rise to our greatest challenges.

This situation, of course, has enormous foreign policy implications. America plays a huge and, more often than not, constructive role in the world today. But that role depends on the country’s social, political, and economic health. And America today is not healthy—economically or politically. This book is our effort to explain how we got into that state and how we get out of it.

Hear authors Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum read an excerpt from the audiobook 'That Used To Be Us'

We beg the reader’s indulgence with one style issue. At times, we include stories, anecdotes, and interviews that involve only one of us. To make clear who is involved, we must, in effect, quote ourselves: “As Tom recalled . . .” “As Michael wrote . . .” You can’t simply say “I said” or “I saw” when you have a co-authored book with a lot of reporting in it.

Readers familiar with our work know us mainly as authors and commentators, but we are also both, well, Americans. That is important, because that identity drives the book as much as our policy interests do. So here are just a few words of introduction from each of us—not as experts but as citizens.

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Tom: I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was raised in a small suburb called St. Louis Park—made famous by the brothers Ethan and Joel Coen in their movie "A Serious Man," which was set in our neighborhood. Senator Al Franken, the Coen brothers, the Harvard political philosopher Michael J. Sandel, the political scientist Norman Ornstein, the longtime NFL football coach Marc Trestman, and I all grew up in and around that little suburb within a few years of one another, and it surely had a big impact on all of us. In my case, it bred a deep optimism about America and the notion that we really can act collectively for the common good.

In 1971, the year I graduated from high school, Time magazine had a cover featuring then-Minnesota governor Wendell Anderson holding up a fish he had just caught, under the headline “The Good Life in Minnesota.” It was all about “the state that works.” When the senators from your childhood were the Democrats Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Eugene McCarthy, your congressmen were the moderate Republicans Clark MacGregor and Bill Frenzel, and the leading corporations in your state—Dayton’s, Target, General Mills, and 3M—were pioneers in corporate social responsibility and believed that it was part of their mission to help build things like the Tyrone Guthrie Theater, you wound up with a deep conviction that politics really can work and that there is a viable political center in American life.

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I attended public school with the same group of kids from K through 12. In those days in Minnesota, private schools were for kids in trouble. Private school was pretty much unheard of for middle-class St. Louis Park kids, and pretty much everyone was middle-class. My mom enlisted in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and my parents actually bought our home thanks to the loan she got through the GI Bill. My dad, who never went to college, was vice president of a company that sold ball bearings. My wife, Ann Bucksbaum, was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, and was raised in Des Moines. To this day, my best friends are still those kids I grew up with in St. Louis Park, and I still carry around a mental image—no doubt idealized—of Minnesota that anchors and informs a lot of my political choices. No matter where I go—London, Beirut, Jerusalem, Washington, Beijing, or Bangalore—I’m always looking to rediscover that land of ten thousand lakes where politics actually worked to make people’s lives better, not pull them apart. That used to be us. In fact, it used to be my neighborhood.

Michael: While Tom and his wife come from the middle of the country, my wife, Anne Mandelbaum, and I grew up on the two coasts—she in Manhattan and I in Berkeley, California. My father was a professor of anthropology at the University of California, and my mother, after my two siblings and I reached high school age, became a public school teacher and then joined the education faculty at the university that we called, simply, Cal.

Although Berkeley has a reputation for political radicalism, during my childhood in the 1950s it had more in common with Tom’s Minneapolis than with the Berkeley the world has come to know. It was more a slice of Middle America than a hotbed of revolution. As amazing as it may seem today, for part of my boyhood it had a Republican mayor and was represented by a Republican congressman.

One episode from those years is particularly relevant to this book. It occurred in the wake of the Soviet Union’s 1957 launching of Sputnik, the first Earth-orbiting satellite. The event was a shock to the United States, and the shock waves reached Garfield Junior High School (since renamed after Martin Luther King Jr.), where I was in seventh grade. The entire student body was summoned to an assembly at which the principal solemnly informed us that in the future we all would have to study harder, and that mathematics and science would be crucial.

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Given my parents’ commitment to education, I did not need to be told that school and studying were important. But I was impressed by the gravity of the moment. I understood that the United States faced a national challenge and that everyone would have to contribute to meeting it. I did not doubt that America, and Americans, would meet it. There is no going back to the 1950s, and there are many reasons to be glad that that is so, but the kind of seriousness the country was capable of then is just as necessary now.

We now live and work in the nation’s capital, where we have seen firsthand the government’s failure to come to terms with the major challenges the country faces. But although this book’s perspective on the present is gloomy, its hopes and expectations for the future are high. We know that America can meet its challenges. After all, that’s the America where we grew up.

Thomas L. Friedman
Michael Mandelbaum
Bethesda, Maryland, June 2011

Excerpted from "That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back" by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, published in September 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2011 by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. All rights reserved.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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