Thomas L. Friedman receives Fisher Prize before
a capacity crowd at Mershon Auditorium
A celebration of the legacy of Max M. Fisher and the centennial commemoration of his birth culminated on Wednesday, Sept. 24 with the awarding of the Fisher Prize to Thomas L. Friedman.
Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for The New York Times and a bestselling author of several books on international affairs and politics. His new release, “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution — and How It Can Renew America,” was the topic of his address before more than 2,000 people at Mershon Auditorium for the Fisher Council on Global Trade and Technology.
Created by Leslie and Abigail Wexner, the council and prize honor the lifelong achievements of the event’s keynote speaker and the college’s namesake.
Anthony Cummings, grandson of the late Fisher, gave remarks at the event on behalf of the family. He said the selection of Friedman for the prize was in keeping with his grandfather’s legacy.
“He and my grandfather actually shared some common values: their ability to look at the big picture and dissect and identify the issues in which we can tackle today’s main problems,” Cummings said, before the presentation of the award to Friedman by Jenny Swaim, an undergraduate student in the Honors Cohort.
After accepting the award, Friedman introduced his book to the audience indicating it was a big picture assessment of America. “It’s a book about my deep concern, bordering on fear, that we have kind of lost our groove as a country since 9-11 and due to a lot of other factors,” he said.
While he said he was not trying to take a political position, he felt the government is not functioning well and unable to address many multigenerational problems, such as health-care, the environment and the economy. Yet, he believed ingenuity was alive and well in all corners of the country.
“This country is so alive with entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s exploding from the ground up,” Friedman said. “But we don’t have a government that is maximizing our ability to take all that innovation to scale.”
He said the country is in desperate need of the next great industrial revolution. “That next great industrial revolution is something I call E.T. – energy technology. The country that owns E.T., I believe is going to have the greatest energy security, economic security, national security, competitive companies, healthiest environment and the most global respect.”
Energy and natural resources supply and demand; petroleum dictatorship by governments, climate change, energy poverty and biodiversity loss are the biggest threats to the world, he said.
Coining a new phrase for “global warming” as “global weirding,” Friedman said his favorite thing about advancement in medicine is, “all the climate deniers are going to live long enough to see how wrong they were.”
“The next great global industry has got to be the search for E.T. – energy technology – a source for abundant, cheap, clean, reliable electrons for clean energy, efficiency and conservation. I know that for sure. That is going to be the next big global industry. It has to be. What I don’t know is who is going to lead it and whether it’s going to be us,” Friedman said.
Before the lecture and award presentation, Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee called the Fisher Prize, “a fitting tribute to the man (Max Fisher).”
“We benefit each and every day from Max’s wisdom, from his grace and his generosity,” Gee said. Les Wexner also hailed Fisher as a motivational force in his life. Wexner credited Fisher for inspiring him to become a civic activist and a philanthropist.