Saturday, February 2, 2008

My Persian Sons

Over twenty years ago I met a young Persian woman, mother of two small boys, ages six and three. Fortune would have it, that we fell in love and I became step-father to these two boys. Time passed and we had our own son, a blend of the genes of Asia and Europe. The boys grew into men. Our son now 17, lives with his mother, our relationship parted, but the bond between my sons and I, remain as a father and his children.

Out of this relationship also came an understanding of the world that I never could have imagined thirty years ago. My two older boys are college graduates, in business together as partners, one is married and expecting his first child. My youngest son is about to graduate high school and wants to study political science or history, his sights set on international relations. I am amazed of his understanding of the World. The essay he wrote for college admission tells of a brief time he spent going to school in the United Arab Emirates, and the knowledge he gained about the diversity of the world and the importance of understanding all people.

I am not writing this for an exercise in bragging about my children. I do so because almost every day we are reminded about our problem with Iran. For the past twenty years I have watched as members of ex-pat Iranian families journey back and forth from the U.S. and Iran. I have met dozens of family members, coming from Iran. They all say, "We love America." To a person they long for a change in their countries political fortune. This silent passage for the past twenty years of people visiting and returning has set the corner stone for the future. When things change in Iran, and they will, the people will be ready to embrace the connections made in thousands of visits over the past years. In a series of articles linked on his blog today, Tom Barnett addresses the glimer of hope for that better relations with Iran will lead to a soft kill "alla Soviet Union."Bush seems ready to deal with everybody, even Iran—so far as Iraq is concerned
And just in, a New York Times article detailing tough economic times for Iran.
A Frail Economy Raises Pressure on Iran’s Rulers

When you strip off the veneer of idologies and get to know the people of a nation, they all are motivated by the same desire to survive and provide a better life for their children. I have found the same in almost every corner of the globe. As people diversify and make connections through business and personal relationships, the old custom to treat every stranger as a potential enemy dissipates. I am reminded of something I read in Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies: Books ...
Diamond writes about a native tribesman from New Guniea who told of how it was until a short time ago, that when you met another man in the forest you carefully probed each other, hoping to find kinship, so that you could avoid mortal combat. Today, much of the world is past that point. The connected places are less likely to go to war with their neighbor nations because of kinship brought about by connections in trade, immigration, and trans-national marriage.

Don't believe this so? Marriage between nationalities in this country was a big taboo one hundred years ago. We now revel in: "My Italian Grandma taught me how to make such good spaggetti sauce." Or,"my Irish granddad could whip anybody's ass." I don't provide these examples to point out differences, but to show that the more we assimilate and accept diversity, the stronger and safer our nation becomes. Many of the men who fought World War II were the sons and grandsons of those who came here by standing in line at Ellis Island. We could have not been successful without their blood.

The next generation of talent, innovators and toilers in our nation carry names and the genes of hundreds of places we silently barred a few years ago. How we develop this talent and grow as a nation is the subject of my next post.

I will write more on this, when I discuss John Kao's book Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters and What We Can Do To Get It Back.

1 comment:

ChrisFlanagan said...

This is a really good post - I only came across it because I subscribe to a google alert for John Kao. We are indeed at a crossroads here in the U.S. While we have certainly risen to the challenge of assimilation and acceptance of diversity, we have, at the same time, seem to have forgotten what got us there – education.

I had the opportunity to interview John Kao a couple of weeks ago. He is one our research advisors at the Business Innovation Factory. You read the article here
- or feel free to email me and I'll send you a pdf.

Cheers - Chris