The Students React

Winter 2011

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The Notre Dame Forum event featuring Thomas Friedman's speech didn't end with the handful of audience questions The New York Times columnist answered at the end. In the days that followed, student-led discussions were held in seven dorms.

Here’s some of what the students had to say:

The Greatest Generation built a world of abundance and freedom by living by sustainable values. His generation squandered the prosperity by moving away from those values. People coming of age today need to become the Re-Generation.

“We need people who are running for power to introduce this new idea of working together and creating a common goal. And it’s not just going to be one person who fixes the whole thing. I think it will be a trend that starts to develop. Maybe our generation starts that trend. We’re not necessarily the Re-Generation but maybe the beginning of tipping toward that.”
—Maureen McQuillan, sophomore

“As a country we need to move to more sustainable practices in almost anything we do. But the idea that there was a time when we [had sustainable values] and in one generation we lost them is kind of silly.”
—Stephen Fox, first year

America can and should lead the world in developing clean-energy technologies. If we delay, the industry and the jobs will take root in another country, probably China.

“A lot of people hold these views of, ‘Why are you outsourcing these jobs? Why are good American jobs going overseas?’ I think that’s really almost an ethnocentric view of things. Why does an American have more of a right to a job than a guy in China? Think about that. Globalization – the beauty of it in a lot of respects – is a lot of these people in these poor countries who didn’t have any opportunities before now do have opportunities brought to them by the West, by America. And, yeah, there’s some sacrifice here at home, but in the concept of the greater good … we are actually accomplishing a greater good.”
—Mark Easley, junior

“America kind of lives in its own little world. As much as we’re trying to globalize, we still think that whatever we think is right … We think that we know what the common good is, but do we really?”
—Samantha Stempky, sophomore

On a “flat” earth with more level economic opportunities, people have to compete against all others all over the globe. To counter sheer numbers of low-wage workers you have to be the brightest, hardest- working or the most innovative. 

“We as Notre Dame students are competing with the same kids at the University of Tokyo and the ones at the University of Beijing … and I think we can say it, the kids in China are a lot more driven (than we are). I was talking to my college counselor before I came in August. She was in China teaching Chinese kids how to apply to American colleges. She said she had six kids. They were only the middle tier of their class, too, because the top two [tiers] have to go to college in China. And these six kids all had (perfect) 800s on every single SAT or SAT II that they took. She said she wanted them to write her one essay for the common (admissions application). They came back the next day with four essays each.”
—Jack Trunzo, first year

He’s an optimist about America’s future and its ability to change and adapt.

“We don’t see the immediate negative effects of what we might be doing, so it’s harder to be motivated to change what we’re doing. We can say that in 20 or 30 years we’re going to be out of X or we’ll not be able to do this or that … but how many of us can say that we really care about what’s going to happen in 20 or 30 years? How many of us care enough to change what we’re doing today?”
—Rob Goodale, sophomore

“If we want to be a sustainable power, then maybe we need to lead with responsibility … I just have a hard time giving up hope in people being naturally good.” 
—Katherine Gates, junior

“I think change has started, we just haven’t noticed it yet. I think change is going to take a long time. I don’t think one administration can do it. I don’t think two administrations can do it. I don’t know if it has to do with the government … I think change for more sustainability is going to take a long time, maybe a decade, maybe a decade and a half. But I think we’ve started on the right track …”
—Megan Finneran, sophomore