American exceptionalism.

Author:Rook, Robert H.
Position:LETTER FROM THE CHAIRMAN - Letter to the editor

BORROWING A CHARACTER from Washington Irving, America's first great author, if a modern-day Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in 1976, 35 years ago, when Directors & Boards was founded, and awoke today, what would surprise, perhaps even astound, him?

In terms of our military strength, Rip may be surprised to learn that the Soviet Union collapsed without bloodshed and that the United States is the sole remaining superpower. But given our experience in Vietnam, Rip would be baffled as to why we have allowed ourselves to get bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In terms of our economic muscle, when Rip fell asleep 35 years ago, the U.S. economy comprised 30% of the world's GNP. Today, we constitute 16%, and China is rapidly closing in.

Concerned about the decrease in our share of the world's economy, Rip would be dismayed by the inequitable distribution of our wealth. The top 1% of our nation now earns a fifth of our aggregate income, more than double the level of the late 1970s.

What might really astound Rip is our new technology, particularly communication and information technologies. He would be thunderstruck by the IPad, amazed that much of the world's information is instantaneously accessible in this handheld gadget.

Impressed, Rip would go on to ask about colonies on the moon, cures for cancer, and renewable fuels for 100-mpg cars. He'd be disappointed to find out that we've made little progress here, and in some cases have stopped trying.

Rip would be disappointed to learn that the last moonwalk was in 1972. He might be puzzled why it still takes eight hours to fly to Paris. Or...

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