America has always been a land of new frontiers. From the time that Columbus first set foot here, to the time that pioneers set out to settle the West, to the time that Americans set out for the moon, there has always been a sense here that there are new frontiers to explore. And yet, America now finds herself somewhat at a loss, and the promise of new frontiers is becoming illusory at best. Where do we go from here? The question lingers in the public mind.
America faces some grave threats in our time, and by implication, so does the world at large. The threats we face seem to fall into three general categories: the threats posed by Extremist ideologies, the threats to the Environment, and the threats to the Economy.
I call these threats the 3-E’s, for short.
Extremist thinking is not limited to groups like Al Qaeda, but exists wherever people put their personal beliefs above the needs of the people at large. It could well be argued, for example, that the meltdown in Wall Street was the result of personal greed trumping the needs of a healthy economy.
The threats to the Environment are beginning to loom large in the public mind. The Environment is quickly assuming the role of the ideological imperative. The decision, some 150 years ago, to run our economies on fossil fuels, may well have been the greatest mistake ever made, a mistake with dire consequences for the destiny of man.
The threats to our economy have been made quite clear in the last few days, with grave implications for the economic wellbeing of the entire world. The global economy, while it does hold the promise of great benefits for the world at large, also means that the downfall of one economy could trigger the downfall of others as well. What is clear is that the model embraced by Wall Street, and by other financial institutions, may need some fine tuning to say the least, if not a major overhaul.
Even to the cursory observer, the threats we face—Extremism, the Environment, and the Economy—are all inter-connected, and inter-related. They feed upon one another, and into one another. They are a package deal, of sorts. You literally can’t solve one, without addressing the other two. And since they are so related to one another, it is possible that a solution can be found which solves all three in one shot.
The search for answers to the problems which we face may well mean a search for new frontiers, for new ways of thinking, and for new actions taken pursuant to new ideas. It is as if our problems are beginning to point to a new paradigm for organizing ourselves as we make our way into the 21st century. As John Gardner put it, we face “…a series of opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.”
The cure for many of the ills which plague us may well be to usher in a Green Revolution, by which we use our technological and economic power to create jobs which are specifically designed to protect the Environment, which will help to curb the hold of extremist thinking, and which will help us to partner with nations around the world to grow our economies, but in a way that is sustainable for countless generations to come.
Think about it. If the threats we face are Environmental, Economic, and Extremist in nature, isn’t the answer to grow our economies by producing green technology goods and services, and by using the jobs created in this regard to give everyone on earth a place at the table, a stake in his or her future, and by hoping that such an outcome will automatically help to neutralize extremist thinking?
It is as if the position that America finds herself cries out for a new frontier to be found and explored. However, this frontier is not about embarking on a journey to a distant land. This frontier is about looking at our current situation, and fashioning a solution which addresses all that is wrong with our world, and with our nation.
Many around the world still look to America as the last remaining super-power, and as the last best hope for mankind. By all means of measure, America has much to be proud of: the most successful democracy, the guarantor of freedom and personal liberties, the strongest economy, the most powerful military, the most renowned academic institutions, the leader in technological advancement and research, the leader of the free world, the cultural trend setter of the world, the country that others look up to and depend on. But looking at America’s many accomplishments, the question still remains: To what end did America achieve her greatness, and to what purpose will she put her strength?
In the past, even in the darkest of times, America has risen to the occasion, and has cast her light on the right path, for all to see, and for all to follow. Like the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor, America has often been a beacon of hope for countless millions around the world. But having been a light unto the nations in the past, many now fear that America may have lost her way. And it is precisely at this time, and under these dire circumstances, that America is once again called upon to assume the mantle of leadership in the world, and to show by example the best way forward. Failure to do so could not only undo the fabric of our nation, but could well mean the undoing of the destiny of man.