Thursday, July 5, 2007

Why We Travel

"One of the issues becoming obvious in the aviation industry is that it is not about the United States anymore," said Jon Kutler, head of Admiralty Partners, a Los Angeles aerospace private equity firm. "It's an extraordinary shift in power. Airlines like the Emirates are pushing for the latest and greatest. They are making an obvious distinction with American carriers that are nickel-and-diming the passengers."

Quoted in a recent article in the International Herald Tribune's business section, Mr. Kutler captures in one stroke the essence of why it is so critical for Americans to travel. For fifty years, those favored by luck to be born in the United States have enjoyed a preeminent position in the world. While children in other countries learned foreign languages, we confidently strode across the globe speaking only English, the purchasing power of American dollars reinforcing our belief that the world revolved around us.

The world has changed.

Today's American students--lazy beyond reckoning, demonstrably inferior in terms of measured performance, yet blind to these realities because of a culture that places them on a pedestal--will enter a global economy in which their birthright offers precious little. In such an environment, we cannot afford to ignore the outside world.

Travel. See the world. Talk to people. Learn that the ways in which others do things are different but not necessarily inferior. As Thomas L Friedman writes in The World is Flat, "the playing field is being leveled."

To get to the top, you'll have to climb.

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