3:06 p.m., Feb. 24, 2011----Stephan Richter, founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, the daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture, discussed “How Others See Us” to open the 2011 Global Agenda speaker series on Wednesday evening, Feb. 23.
Richter, who is also the president of the Globalist Research Center, and was the North American adviser to the German Economics Ministry and vice chancellor of Germany, kicked off the series before a packed crowd at the University of Delaware's Mitchell Hall.
The series focuses on perceptions of America abroad, and Richter joined series moderator Ralph Begleiter, director of UD's Center for Political Communication, to discuss how other countries see us and what we can learn form their point of view. Richter started off the evening, noting that it is a difficult subject: “The United States is such a big country that everything you say about it is true; so is the opposite.”
Countries, he said, either love or admire us, hate or envy us, respect us or ignore us. While our want for personal freedoms has become part of the “global DNA, at the same time countries envy us because of our dominance materially and economically.”
“As Americans, we view the world out there that looks back at us ... with a permanent mixture of a cycle that goes from admiration, aspiration, being more like us, to perspiration, meaning trying to work hard to get like us, to frustration because we don't pay them proper respect.”
He emphasized that, in the past, the United States was admired among Europeans because of its determination and can-do attitude. “The United States, to them, always came across as a nation that's focused on rolling up shirt sleeves, look at problems honestly, gets cracking and gets it done,” he said. But recently the country has taken up some of the less great parts of European traditions like fighting with each other.
He said he believes we can learn as a country, from the perceptions of the United States that others have. In the past, he said the U.S. was admired based on four central principals: our middle class society, pragmatism, modernity and the societal capacity of tolerating change. “These four foundational principals of what constituted admiration of the United States are exactly what we have a hard time with these days in our own society,” Richter said. Today, he said he believes the country is moving in the opposite direction of modernity, and the debate of evolutionism is evidence of this.
To move forward, we must do what other countries do -- look to other nations and find ways to improve. He called this, “younger sibling syndrome” in that the older sibling, like the U.S., often paves the way for the younger one, but the younger one looks at what the older child did and finds ways that things could have been done better. Richter said we should look at what those after us have done and become more open to how they have operated. “I think it is key for us to look at the future,” he said.
But in moving forward, we should continue to use the perspectives of others to our benefit. “We should really look back to what made us great in the eyes of others, and we can learn a lot from that,” he said.
Global Agenda, now in its tenth season, is presented by the Center for Political Communication, with support from the Institute for Global Studies and the UD departments of Communication and Political Science and International Relations.
The series takes place at Mitchell Hall on Wednesdays. It is free and no tickets or reservations are required.
The next speaker will be Robert B. Zoellick, president of the World Bank, who will speak at 3:45 p.m., Wednesday, March 9. A complete schedule and details of speaker appearances are available at the Global Agenda website.
Article by Erica Cohen
Photos by Duane Perry