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Global Americans -- from living in China to flying Down Under     Send a link to a friend

[APRIL 22, 2004]  Excerpt from "Better Times Ahead: April Fool" and an old travel journal:

11 November 1984
8:09 P.M.
Night Train from Shanghai

I'm on the night train from Shanghai to Nanjing, China. Charles is next door cutting a "2 million dollar deal" to help a Hong Kong trading house sell commercial technology to the Chinese.

So while the technical advisor is doing his thing, I am sitting here in this rocking compartment, wondering if the gamble was worth it. We didn't have an official invite, zero cash until we got $1,000 the day we left Houston, my Gold American Express card--and that was it.

I knew we couldn't do any international business by continuing on the rubber chicken circuit in Houston. To be international, one has to get 'out there' and go for it. It's a challenge to write in this swaying car, so I will lay back and contemplate the world as we roll past the night landscape. This trip can only get better..." *

It didn't. That six-week trip through China was part Marco Polo and an eye-opener. It was my first after getting laid off from a Fortune 500 company. I was trying to export American goods (which creates jobs here), but I found few American companies willing to try. If I'd decided to buy Chinese goods to import into the U.S. instead, I'd have struck it rich. I didn't do that either. We are still feeling those effects today.

That trip to China occurred when the Texas economy was going south in the '80s -- when Texas companies needed to sell products overseas to stay in business, but many were too afraid to try anything new. A lot went broke instead. A lot of U.S. companies now are going global, but many are exporting jobs instead of goods or services.

An example: My water heater just went out over Easter weekend. The plumber told me that our new one was the last one that will be made in America (story at my blog referenced below). What kind of future does that leave us?

I think we'd be a better off if all Americans were required to travel as a condition of citizenship -- so they see for themselves what is going on in the world, in business and politically, instead of just taking as gospel what some politicians tell them. At the minimum it would sure make people more grateful for what we have. We can't lead a world we know too little about. I recently witnessed a congressional candidate proclaim his ignorance on global affairs and threats against us -- not reassuring in a global economy that includes global terrorists.


[to top of second column in this article]

But there is good news. A fellow member of my Civil Air Patrol squadron, whom we call "Traveler," is currently flying a small plane over Australia with his wife (it's a 20-hour jet ride just to get there). His nickname comes from having traveled to over 30 countries since he retired from a Fortune 500 company. When he gets back I intend to ask him if flying on the bottom of the planet, Down Under in Australia, is upside down (just kidding).

I also met a young couple with a cute baby named Sarah at a festival this weekend who told me that they had lived in Shanghai, China, for three years, teaching, before moving to Sugar Land -- a burb just outside of Houston. Their worldview was sharply different from many Americans I meet. They were conservative but were informed.

These are just two examples of what I call "global Americans" who represent our future if we are to remain a superpower. We need more like them, ranging from the young soldiers sent to Iraq to students like my wife's oldest son, who has studied abroad in East Europe and South America and knows more about global events than that congressional candidate.

To thrive (and survive) in the 21st century, we will need to become global Americans --from Main Street to Wall Street and in Congress and the White House.

[Michael Fjetland, Global American series]

*From "Better Times Ahead: April Fool?" a book being written about the future of America, by Michael Fjetland.

Reprints allowed with author credit and website reference to this site where interested parties can subscribe (free):

Michael Fjetland (pronounced "Fetland") is an international attorney and negotiator who has been in over 55 countries since the 1970s, is a volunteer pilot with the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary and is a TV terrorism analyst in Houston

For something completely different, check out Michael's Online Blog:

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