The Obama Generation Takes the Helm The Obama Generation Takes the Helm
The Obama Generation Takes the Helm
The Daily GOOD
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In the coming years, the Obama generation will feel like the Kennedy generation of the 1960s.This generation has the online tools it has invented, which can help to meet the challenge. Social networking elected Barack Obama, raising the money, energy, and volunteers to succeed. Now social networking needs to reach out globally, to forge new alliances across countries, so that the world as a whole can fight poverty, can convert to a green economy, and can overcomedeep divisions born more from ignorance than from real differences.At Columbia University, we are hosting a global classroom that brings together more than a dozen campuses around the world for a weekly online discussion. From New York to Beijing, with students in Sussex, England; Paris; Ibadan, Nigeria; Delhi, India; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and more, we engage in direct discussions on food production, energy systems, and global ethics that underscore the communality of our world's challenges. Yet this is only the start of a new global politics and society. The coming years can multiply these efforts in unimaginable ways.The U.S. recovery will come through increased social efforts-including spending on community infrastructure and green technologies-that will not only restore employment and hope, but will create a sustainable basis for future economic development. We will view taxes once again not as the greatest evil, the dreaded "socialism" so mockingly derided by John McCain, but as the price we pay for civilization, as explained last century by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. We'll have little choice, with budget deficits pushing toward $1 trillion.We will stop ignoring the fight against poverty elsewhere, in places like Afghanistan or the Horn and the Sahel in Africa, realizing that it's the only way to bolster our security. Armies cannot subdue hungry people or stabilize poverty-stricken regions. Just ask the generals-not the neoconservative of the Bush era who sent the troops into harm's way.
The global problems are larger than before, but our generation's capacity to meet them is larger still.But government will not be done the old way, as a simply top-down exercise. The greatest strengths are achieved when global goals are linked to local energies and national financing. The problem-solving of the future will involve government, community organizations, private businesses, scientists and engineers, and volunteers. Cities will have the chance, and the need, to reinvent themselves with more sustainable and healthy strategies and designs.Rural areas can pick themselves up following the example of the Millennium Villages in Africa, which are breaking the poverty trap through community-based investments. National governments will pick up part of the bill, but much of the creativity and work on the ground will be mobilized locally, in cities and rural communities.The economy is frightening, to be sure, but the potential is also exhilarating. Let's remember that we reached the new millennium with more powerful technologies, open-source creativity, and better networking than ever before. The global problems are larger than before, but our capacity to meet them is larger still. The election marks not just a change of government, but a change of direction. The era of sustainable development has arrived, and the Obama generation is ready for the challenge.