A Student’s Thoughts from the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit

July 29, 2014

In the mid-nineteenth century a debate was held between two brilliant orators, Webster and Hayne. The debate between the senators culminated in the examination of several great questions concerning constitutional law. In the beginning of Webster’s unforgettable second reply to Hayne, he guided the discussion from where it had drifted back to where they had begun:

Mr. President – When the mariner has been tossed for many days in thick weather, and on an unknown sea, he naturally avails himself of the first pause in the storm, the earliest glance of the sun, to take his latitude, and ascertain how far the elements have driven him from his true course. Let us imitate this prudence, and, before we float farther on the waves of this debate, refer to the point from which we departed, that we may at least be able to conjecture where we now are.

In our globally connected world, we need a clear and cogent grasp on our bearings just like Webster and Hayne. Sailors in the twenty-first century have tools and resources that their peers of three hundred years ago did not possess: radio and satellite tools to communicate with others who can see what we cannot. Regardless of the seas we sail or the circles we frequent, to refuse to communicate outside of that circle relegates us to a position as irrelevant as the disoriented sailor’s.

Thanks to the thoughtful sponsorship of the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), I was invited to leave my university circle to participate as a student in the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit. Over the course of the one-day conference, I listened to and was invited to join in conversations with world-class economists, traders, businessmen and entrepreneurs.

When, as a student, can you talk about Korean-Japanese cultural and economic exchanges with the chief economist of a top Japanese asset management firm, listen into a conversation with the head of AIG macro modeling on the reliability of official Chinese economic data reports, question an expert on global commodity futures about world trends and connectivity and ask a world-famous entrepreneur and mentor about the needs of entrepreneurs in emerging markets, all in the same day? GIC made that possible at the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit.

In trying to learn something of the world and how we can contribute, we can’t avoid exposure to provincial and polemical viewpoints. In public and civic life today, discussion is often soured by disparagement and dialogue rendered all but inaudible by diatribes. I found none of that here. A dedication to understanding runs deep in these conferences. As long as GIC continues to provide a forum for civil, engaged and frequent public discourse, I hope to share in these unparalleled opportunities for learning and contribution.

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