America on the Brink

David Ger­gen has served four dif­fer­ent Amer­i­can pres­i­dents (Nixon, Ford, Rea­gan, and Clin­ton), and he now heads the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Lead­er­ship at the Har­vard Kennedy School. Last month Ger­gen, known for being a mea­sured observ­er of pol­i­tics, spoke before the Com­mon­wealth Club of Cal­i­for­nia and issued a very sober warn­ing: Amer­i­ca faces mon­u­men­tal prob­lems. But unfor­tu­nate­ly our capac­i­ty to address them has nev­er been so dimin­ished, and we’re this close to head­ing into a civ­i­liza­tion­al decline. Just what is lim­it­ing our abil­i­ty to han­dle these prob­lems? If you cut to the chase, it’s a mediocre gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans – politi­cians, busi­ness lead­ers, media moguls, cit­i­zens – habit­u­al­ly putting per­son­al inter­ests first and the greater good sec­ond. It’s not a pret­ty pic­ture, but Ger­gen sug­gests a few ways out of the woods. (Hint: edu­ca­tion counts here.) You can stream the talk here, grab it on iTunes, or lis­ten below. And if you think there’s noth­ing you can per­son­al­ly do to make this gen­er­a­tion a bet­ter one, I sug­gest you watch the last few min­utes of this Robert Sapol­sky video.

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Comments (5)
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  • Zagrobelny says:

    Giv­en that he’s glad­ly served some of the peo­ple who got us to this mess in the first place, I’m not sure he has the stand­ing to lec­ture oth­ers about this prob­lem.

  • Caleb says:

    I’m guess­ing the first sug­ges­tion for how to reverse Amer­i­ca’s civ­i­liza­tion­al decline is rough­ly three words long and goes some­thing like this: “Hire David Ger­gen.”

  • Josh says:

    This guy has an incred­i­ble grasp of the obvi­ous… and an ugly ten­den­cy to make mean­ing­less his­tor­i­cal com­par­isons. Rome did­n’t have VC. Ming Chi­na did­n’t have Google. And no pre-Amer­i­can empire was ever sub­ject to Moore’s Law.

    Lis­ten­ing to this talk, I had two alter­nat­ing reac­tions: either (1) “dude, tell us some­thing we don’t know!”, or (2) “huh?”

    Thanks for post­ing, but this is unim­pres­sive stuff.

  • William Long says:

    After read­ing the posts, our coun­try is in deep trou­ble, no hope. I am glad i don’t have many years left.

  • zafrika says:

    I remem­ber Alex Jones con­fronting Ger­gen with his activ­i­ties inside Bohemi­an Groove.

    Our wise man almost attacked him phys­i­cal­ly.

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