The Great Explainer Tackles Our World in Turmoil – Thomas Friedman at AA Nov. 6

By Marcia Jaffe | AJT Contributor

Thomas Friedman

New York Times Columnist, triple Pulitzer Prize winner, and best selling author Thomas Friedman will appear on November 6 at Ahavath Achim Synagogue as another jewel in the crown of the 26 year old Fran and Eizenstat Family Annual Lecture Series. Standing at the podium of such illustrious speakers as US Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Israeli Prime Ministers, US Secretaries of State and major cultural figures, Friedman will speak (at no charge to the public) at 7:30 pm.

It’s hard to quantify the educational gift that Ambassador Eizenstat has bestowed upon his hometown. I recall coming off a tour bus in Morocco with my Atlanta name tag and being approached, “Is there really a synagogue in Atlanta where Henry Kissinger and Abba Eban spoke?”…just to mention a few.

Atlanta’s “favorite son” and adviser to Presidents, Stuart Eizenstat (who grew up at AA Synagogue) is a graduate of Harvard School of Law,served in key positions in President Jimmy Carter’s administration, including Chief Domestic Policy Adviser and Executive Director of the White House Domestic Policy Staff , and in President Bill Clinton’s administration, including Deputy Treasury Secretary, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, and Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade.  He also served as Ambassador to the European Union where he made headlines koshering the kitchen there.

Last March, Broadway actress Tovah Feldshuh wowed the audience (also at AA) with a custom designed musical Tribute to Eizenstat, who now heads the Covington-Burling DC Law Firm’s international practice.

Why Eizenstat Selected Friedman

“Tom Friedman is the most influential journalist and author of our time, with an unprecedented three Pulitzer Prizes. He is among the most influential people in the world in shaping global opinions about almost every challenge facing us today, from Russia/Ukraine to Iran ’s nuclear threat, from the challenges facing Israel and the Middle East peace process to the disarray in the Arab world. He coined the term “globalization” and explained it in his remarkable book, “The World is Flat”. In high level meetings I am in with people of every political stripe, Tom’s latest New York Times column is cited.”

Friedman has seen his share of praise and controversy among the Jewish community. These are his comments from an interview I conducted with him on October 13.

Up Close with Friedman 

Marcia Jaffe: Why come to Atlanta now with this topic “Explaining A World in Turmoil” ?

Friedman: It’s clear we are in a time of order and disorder which is impacting our commerce, trade, and travel. Why? How far can it go and continue to affect America?

Jaffe: You’ve been called a radical centrist, a Jewish sell out, a hawkish liberal…what do you call yourself? (question originally posed by Shane Tepper, 28, the event Young Professional’s Coordinator)

Friedman: (laughs) Radical centrist is most accurate. I think the strongest solution is a hybrid of the best ideas whether they are from the left and/or right. The center is NOT MUSH! The hybrid can be the most clear.

Jaffe: You are referred to as the “great explainer,” a prolific world savvy author ..what do you think is your greatest talent?

Friedman: I translate from English to English taking complex subjects and simplifying them without dumbing them down.

Jaffe: What makes you think we can trust Abbas and the Palestinian Authority as a legitimate peace partner- even if Israel agrees to borders, settlement reduction etc?

Friedman: I don’t trust them; but as Ronald Regan said, “Trust, but verify”…Israel is vastly superior militarily and will have to have “fail safe” options to verify along the way if the partnership is not met, and reverse accordingly if necessary.

Jaffe: If you were US President this past year, what might you have done differently?

Friedman: I would lift the ban on oil exports and flood the world with oil to hurt Russia and Iran’s (among others) petro-dictatorships;  AND with the other hand, impose a tax on carbon.

Jaffe: What’s you relationship with Stuart Eizenstat?

Friedman: I’ve known Stuart since 1989.He is a great American and a great Jewish American. He is a builder and a titan”

Jaffe: Interesting in my Feb 2014 column about Stuart Eizenstat, I called him a TITAN in the headline.

Freidman: (laughing) Great minds run in the same channel; there you go.

Jaffe: Flattery, yes.

Things You May Not Know About Friedman

His father died while he was a student at Brandeis, and he had to borrow money to finish college. Thus he said, “There is nothing like living close to the edge that gets you motivated…”

He’s a five handicap golfer who writes for Golf Digest and caddied for ChiChi Rodriguez.

His usual speaker engagement fee is $50,000.

His award winning book “The World Is Flat” was a best seller in China although criticism of China was removed prior to publication.

While he was covering Lebanon in 1983, he had the first glimpse of suicide bombing and this “new brand” of terrorism. Also his driver’s wife and children were murdered at his apartment while he(Friedman) was away.

He now occupies William Saffire’s office in DC and overlooks the White House.

Gail Collins, also with the New York Times, said, “Traveling with Friedman to the Middle East is like going to the mall with Brittany Spears.”  Being Jewish makes him part of the biorhythm there and caring about the outcome.

Friedman’s wisdom and excerpts from columns

“ISIS is like an Invasive Species:  likened to the plant/animal world where a non native species ruthlessly chokes out other plant life.”

“ISIS is not so strong. Everything else around it is so weak.”

“First Rule of Oil – Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers; oil users are the addicts, oil producers are the pushers. Through less addiction, we can coerce the Middle East out of power.”

“Any car company that gets taxpayer money must demonstrate a plan for transforming every vehicle in its fleet to a hybrid-electric engine with flex-fuel capability…”

“It is pure idiocy that Congress will not open our borders as wide as possible…”

“Obama vs Reagan? I’ll leave it to historians many years from now to figure who was a better president. In several critical areas, Reagan had a much easier world to lead than Obama has now.”

THE EVENT

Come hear Tom Friedman “up close and personal” Thursday, November 6 at 7:30 at Ahavath Achim Synagogue- 600 Peachtree Battle. No charge to the public. No need to RSVP. His books will be available for signing. Expect a security check and arrive early.

When/where else can you hear someone who was interviewed in PLAYBOY Magazine as well as received an honorary title (OBE) from Queen Elizabeth II… on a southern bimah?