Thomas Friedman Spoke at Ahavath Achim Nov. 6

By Marcia Jaffe | AJT Contributor

Friedman

Hometown favorite son Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat scored another thought provoking timely speaker when New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman addressed a huge audience at Ahavath Achim Synagogue November 6.

Friedman’s gift is compiling, organizing and explaining our world today in “English to English” without “dumbing it down.” I took copious notes and felt like I had attended a 6 week course at an Ivy League university that evening. It was also inspiring to see uniformed rows of young men there from the Riverside Military Academy.

Friedman rarely looked at notes while speaking for over an hour. Mixed with his own Minnesota humor, he acknowledged that Rabbi Emeritus Arnold Goodman Bar Mitzvahed him decades ago (as he did current Rabbi Neil Sandler).

Crowd Comments

“I’ve enjoyed reading Friedman for years.” Attendee Ed Goldberg said, “Recently I sensed we were going in different directions; but after hearing what he had to say, I think he is not only aware of how complex the neighborhood is, but also why there may never be peace in the Middle East our time. Wish he consulted with our enemies to explain as clearly why they are going down the wrong track.”

Quill Healey said, “I thought claiming that climate caused the problem (Isis) in Syria was far fetched. Think back to Oklahoma in the 30s.”

Anna Robertson observed, “His speaking style was a great match for the intimate sanctuary. He is a master at taking complex topics and distilling them to clever analogies such as the “second half of the chess board”.

Dr. Dan Kleinman said, “His immigration imagery stuck with me. ‘We need a high wall with a wide gate.’”

Susan Feinberg, family friend of Stuart Eizenstat said, “I sent my grandchildren excerpts of Friedman’s speech about success in today’s workplace like ‘passion and persistence overtake high intelligence’.”

Snapshot of his ideas:

  • Furthering his WORLD IS FLAT book, the world is FAST is the current theme. “World population has doubled in our lifetime. Skype and twitter were unheard of 7 years ago. The top of Mt Everest has Wifi. We are hyperconnected.”

Even Friedman’s parking attendant has his own blog. ISIS uses whattsapp and facebook as Command Control Centers.

  • Average is OVER. Dick Planer, head event usher, said this impressed him the most.  “Even farm cow milkers are being replaced by robots. To get a job, you must invent your own Unique Value Contribution. Look for the non routine and creative.” The audience chuckled when Friedman revealed a new website striving to make lawyers obsolete; but for the fact that “they can’t yet handhold or wipe away tears.”
  • Interviewing the Google HR manager, Friedman revealed that pedigrees and degrees are not given the weight they used to. “It’s what you can do with what you know…whether you get it from an online course or home schooling…Live like you are a paranoid optimistic immigrant. Anything can be taken away from you because you came from a worse place. Always be in your Beta mode: re-learning, re-tooling, as a work in progress.”
  • “It’s not so good to be a leader any more. Why would Rahm Emanuel leave the Number Two job in DC to be a mayor in a Midwest city? Watching Congress is analogous to American Idol.”

Friedman’s world travels enable him to connect the dots. “I was in a gift shop in Cairo buying a pyramid ashtray that was made in China.”  Said by Friedman who escapes to the golf course where no one stops him to chat up topics. Friedman is after all, a self described frustrated optimistic.

After 35 years with Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as  Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association where she delivers news and trends(laced with a little gossip). On the side, Marcia is Captain of the Senior Cheerleaders for the WNBA at Philips Arena.