Today, I found Thomas Friedman to be, well, flat. In his column, which pays part homage to the undergraduate, graduating class of 2007 and part congratulations to his own daughter who is a part of this class, Friedman paints a rosier than rose picture about the graduates, the world of which they are a part, and the future they have the potential to shape. And he seems to be addressing a small minority of graduates: the wealthy and able.
Mr. Friedman dubs the class, rather one-dimensionally as “The Quiet Americans.” He claims that they probably don’t “take to the streets” to protest because, he suspects, they are “protesting on-line.” He lauds, what he has observed, their efforts of community service, of reaching out, of helping those less fortunate. He touts the number of graduates who have enlisted in the Armed Services, despite the nightmare known as Iraq. He frames their geopolitical, generational conflict as one of terrorism and fear versus optimism and opportunity. In short, he believes that this generation has the “determination” to “extend” their experiences into “adulthood” to become lawyers, doctors, consultants and bankers who need to stay “involved” to fix big problems like social security, globalism, and who the hell knows what else.
Certainly, any commencement speaker or scribe must be positive. And it’s completely understandable why Daddy Friedman wants what any parent wants for his child: a safe and potentially secure future in which individuals can thrive. But what I find so troubling about Friedman’s column is that while his observations certainly apply to some graduates, they clearly don’t apply to all.
Most “quiet Americans” are worrisome about the future. Many of them are negotiating ways to pay, in some cases, exorbitant college loans while trying to secure full-time employment. Many of them are weighing the possibility of graduate work and more incredible debt versus quickly entering the workforce to place professional dreams on-hold. A majority of them are trying to secure a “decent” paying job that will provide affordable health care, some funds or credit perhaps to purchase and fuel a car, and some modicum of independence. And quite frankly, many of them don’t fully understand our involvement in Iraq, before our entry, when we invaded, and now during our stay because these students are simply trying to survive and also because the mainstream media has done a terrible job providing American citizens with fair and balanced reporting on the war. Funny, on Memorial Day Weekend, we still don’t see one American casket, one nation-wide celebration to honor the fallen in Iraq, or one member of the Bush administration to lead a service for our fallen and disabled heroes.
Like Friedman, I believe in our students and their possibilities to do great things for the future. Unlike Friedman, I think most Americans are quiet for reasons other than their “can and will do” potential.
Addendum: Bush attended a photo-op today at Arlington and gave some lame speech about sacrifice.