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Greg Mortenson Lecture

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Sara and I attended an excellent lecture tonight by Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame. We arrived at the Humphrey Coliseum shortly after 1800 for a 1900 lecture. Following the requisite introductions, the lecture began around 1910.

I had seen Mortenson video when he gave a talk at the Naval War College. I really enjoyed that lecture but he was even better in person. He seemed to really enjoy being here and we certainly enjoyed having him here. He mentioned that in a early meeting with some of our students, he asked how many had been involved with community service. Typically he said he gets about 60% to 80% response but at Mississippi State he got 100%. Similarly, later he asked how many students had spent 10 hours or more talking to their elders about historical events (depression, World War II, etc.). Again, we had about 20% greater response than others.

Mortenson said he did want to come back and visit some of the public schools and nursing homes. I know he would get a wonderful reception.

Following the lecture we waited in line with some friends for the book signing. I got both my hard back Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time signed and by hardback copy of Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan signed. Of course I have both as Kindle editions and I have bought and given away probably 10 to 15 copies of the paperback Three Cups of Tea. We had a short conversation while he was signing and I found him to be very pleasant.

His Central Asia Institute has been added to my list of charitable organizations. As I get older I find I prefer more and more to donate money to my church and to some specific organizations rather than run them through clearinghouses such as United Way. This way I can get money directly to the places that need it without the overhead charge of these clearinghouses. Call me cantankerous.

As Thomas PM Barnett reports in his post on the Financial Times reporting, the workers in China are revolting. Low wages worked for a while but now the Chinese want more. I can't blame them. The problem with cheap labor is that it is seldom, if ever, cheap for long.

This is what bothers me about some states in the Southeastern US. With the high wages paid to auto workers in the Northern states, arguably because of labor unions, companies have moved south to cheaper labor. It is a good move by the companies because it allows them to produce products at lower costs thereby allowing them to either selling that product at lower prices and higher volumes, or have a larger profit margin. It works great for all concerned until cheaper labor is found somewhere else. That cheaper labor may be found in another state, or in Mexico. Once that happens, where does that leave the Southern auto workers? Easy answer, we only need to look north to see what happens.

Cheap labor may work for a while but, as we see in China, it is not sustainable. I can't say that I am opposed to the auto companies, and other manufacturing companies, moving south, but I do hope that work continues to work on developing the high-tech R&D capabilities. That, as I see it, is the long-term solution to a sustainable economy.

I look at blogs on a fairly regularly basis and I have my favorites but my all-time favorite is Thomas PM Barnett. It is posts like this one entitled "Smart guy, dumb book: US grand strategy completely misrepresented" that keep me coming back. No doubt Barnett and I differ on some of our politics but I cannot fault a guy who is so even handed in his analysis. He calls them as he sees them: right or wrong, left or right.

Globalization is perhaps one of the greatest things to have happened to mankind in recent history and how it can be ignoed in a book on strategy is beyond me. I am nearing the begining on my dissertation on change in professions, specifically engineering, and globalization will figure prominently in my arguments. To ignore it in a US grand strategy will surely produce a "dumb book".

Top 100 Global Thinkers

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"The FP Survey: The Wisdom of the Smart Crowd", Foreign Policy, Special Edition, December 2009. p. 26

This article lists the top 100 Global Thinkers and I'm happy to see some of my favorites were listed:

#8 General David Petraeus

#19 Malcolm Gladwell

#21 Thomas Friedman

#25 Joseph Stiglitz

#44 David Kilcullen

#55 Henry Kissinger

#56 Niall Ferguson

#65 Francis Fukuyama

#66 The Kagan Family (Donald, Robert, Frederick, and Kimberly)

#81 John Arquilla

#82 Peter W. Singer

Some missing, in my opinion: Thomas P. M. Barnett, John Nagl, Greg Mortenson. Admittedly this survey was for 2009 so I can accept that the contributions made by those left off the list were made in previous years.

And just for completeness, here is the global thinkers book club.

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