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Monday, April 19, 2004
Global American Series
Global Americans – From living in China to Flying "Down Under"
Excerpt from "Better Times Ahead: April Fool" and an old travel journal:
"11 November 1984
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
That trip to China occurred when the Texas economy was going south in
the 80's --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 Congress
candidate proclaim his ignorance on global affairs and threats against
us – not reassuring in a global economy that includes global terrorists.
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 Congress
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.
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): www.INTLEGALGROUP.com
Michael Fjetland (pronounced "Fetland") is an international
attorney/negotiator who has been in over 55 countries since the
1970's, is a volunteer pilot with the US Air Force Auxiliary and is a
TV terrorism analyst in Houston"
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