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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Widening my perspective

On the drive in to Seoul from Incheon International Airport, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I expected an exotic experience and even though it was 10 at night, the sites seemed all too familiar. The expressway looked similar to any other expressway in the U.S. Signs on the highway were the same Crayola green as in the states.

As we neared the city limits, one of the first establishments to pop into view was an Outback Steakhouse, that Aussie-inspired (though Tampa-based) bastion of the bloomin' onion. Closer to our hotel we chuckled at the Dunkin’ Donuts and KFC, but delighted in the proximity of Starbucks. One can never be too far away from Starbucks and a grande cafĂ© mocha.

Ah yes, how delightful to see such wonderful Western influences as Domino’s Pizza, the Coffee Beanery and Tea House and, of course, McDonald’s. This is America’s influence in the world. One has to believe there must be a market for such eateries in foreign markets or they simply would not survive.

Our influence, I've come to believe, was evident on a deeper level — in the dogged pursuit of freedom, particularly press freedom. And that’s one of the very best exports we can model. Our colleagues in Asia are the freedom fighters of their day, pursuing freedom with no less fervor than our forefathers did, often at great risk to themselves or their families.

It’s inspiring and humbling in a way. But if my week in Asia — not nearly long enough to explore these relationships in detail — revealed anything it’s that we share more in common with humankind than not. We all want to support our families, engage in work we love, find opportunities for learning, worship our God or no God, and ensure a better future for our children and grandchildren.

Are there differences among us? Absolutely! But it’s those differences that can also serve as bonds of strength between us.

I’m an eternal optimist and I confess it emerges more strongly at this time of year than others. My hope for 2005 is that Americans take more of an interest in the larger world. No human is an island and certainly we can no longer afford to think ourselves as independent from the rest of the world.

So take a little time in your day and read a bit of news from outside our country. Travel if you can. Talk to foreign nationals. Scour the ‘A’ section of your newspaper for foreign news. Read the national dailies more frequently. Pick up The Economist from time to time. Peruse the International Herald Tribune. Tune in to the BBC. Or simply visit Google News and search by geography.

You won’t be sorry. Your perspective will widen, you’ll start to frame questions in your own mind about how, why, where and when the U.S. is engaged in the world. For example, how involved was the U.S. in the Ukrainian elections? You might want to read this article in The Guardian. And don’t miss its newsblog, which I find better than anything U.S. papers are doing. For the most part, American traditional media are still wringing their hands while demonizing bloggers and are missing out on how to create a symbiotic relationship with them. But that’s fodder for another post and another day…

Haven’t checked in a while, but I was buoyed today by this horoscope of mine. Onward and upward, fellow Virgos!

August 22 - September 21
A business opportunity in a distant state, or perhaps even in a foreign country, could be in the works, dear Virgo. It could, however, require a lot of travel, or perhaps even relocation. You may have mixed feelings about it, but you're not likely to turn it down. This could be a real break! Your health over the next year should be robust and glowing, and you'll have the energy to take on just about any project you want. Onward and upward!

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