October 19, 2020 by Glenn Mangurian
Yes, the whole world is watching us. I am old enough to remember the origins of that expression: the phrase was chanted by anti-Vietnam War demonstrators as they were beaten and arrested outside the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. 1968 was a tumultuous year marked by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, as well as escalations in the Vietnam War and civil rights protests.
For America, 2020 has been another year of crises marked by a global pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and severe political divisions. Election Day is less than three weeks away and early voting is underway; other countries are always watching us though foreign leaders and their citizens struggle to understand what is going on here. In the past four years, our internal practices and international relations have been redirected to an "America First" approach to trade, immigration, and diplomacy. Traditional allies feel alienated and adversaries feel emboldened.
Some days the whole world seems upside down.
While the 2016 Presidential election seemed like a choice between contrasts, 2020 may be more a fundamental referendum on our place among nations. Up until recently, American economic and foreign policies have reflected the norms of globalism–the belief that we live in a network of connections. No country can operate as an island economically, politically, or culturally. One country’s success is tied to other countries’ cooperation. Competitors are also collaborators. Many of these norms have been challenged and replaced by economic and foreign policies based on populism and nationalism. Since World War II we have thought of ourselves, rightly or wrongly, as the moral leader of the “free world” advocating for human rights and the virtues of democracy. Recently the New York Times suggested that distinction may have shifted to Canada, as it sets an example for how a righteous and compassionate country should operate.
So the whole world is watching what choice America will make about its future: “We, the People”, as stewards of the Constitution, are vested with the awesome responsibility of making a “more perfect union." Our children and future generations are counting on us. Let’s not squander that duty.
Glenn Mangurian has been a resident of Hingham for 35 years. He is a retired business leader with more than four decades of experience driving innovation and results with his clients. Glenn remains active with his writing, speaking, family, and community.
In May 2001, Glenn suffered an injury to his spinal cord, resulting in the paralysis of his lower body. Drawing on his personal experience, he authored an article titled “Realizing What You’re Made Of,” which was published in March 2007 in the Harvard Business Review. In May 2017 he published his first book, Pushing the Edge of Thought, Possibility and Action – Questions and Insights from Everyday Life.
Glenn Mangurian can be reached at: email@example.com