I listened to an interview with Bill Bishop, author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart. This reinforced my belief that one of America's greatest strength is that we are a melting pot. But, if we all gravitate to communities and social circles where everyone is just like us, we will all miss out on the benefits of the diversity.
When I think about entrepreneurship, I always associate it with new ideas, high energy, and commitment. This is exactly what you get with new immigrants who come to the US to make their lives better. My grandparents were immigrants, and my paternal grandfather was an entrepreneur. He built up a pretty big wholesale and retail grocery business after coming the country with very little. While there is nothing stopping native-born Americans from being just as entrepreneurial, our privileged upbringing probably removes some of the inner hunger that an immigrant who has to overcome large obstacles probably has.
But, even more important than making sure we continue to have a steady stream of immigrants coming into the US with new ideas and new energy, we all need to continue to expose ourselves to new people and new ideas to avoid complacency. We tend to settle into our comfort zones where life is predictable and less challenging. That's a recipe for stagnation. Instead, we need to force ourselves to meet new people, from different backgrounds, and embrace new ideas.
Unfortunately, it seems that too many people are pulling back into a comfortable cocoon of familiarity. Even our news sources are reinforcing this, with opinion and news being all mixed together so that our minds are made up for us. You have to work hard to get multiple points of view on an issue.
The more we learn about other people, other cultures, and other ideas, the better we will be able to deal with the world's problems. The more innovative we will be. The better our solutions will be. So, fight the tendency to stay with your comfort zone and push out of it once in a while. Travel to really different places and countries. Push into social circles with people of different backgrounds -- ethnic and financial. And, make sure your kids do the same. You'll understand the world in different ways.
This brings me to Barack Obama. Despite my real disappointment that he zig zagged on the FISA/telco immunity issue, I still think that he is the rare candidate that can pull the different parts of the country together. He's not perfect, and he's not as experienced as some people would like. But, I think that we are all going to have to sacrifice somewhat to solve the big problems facing the US. It will be easier to sacrifice with someone who really unites us at the helm. I think that one reason Bush won in 2000 was his 'uniter, not a divider' line. If only it were true.
(PS - read the Salon article from the last link. Is that really the same person who has been President for the past seven years?)