Les and Abigail Wexner created the Fisher Council on Global Trade and Technology in 1998 by to honor the lifelong achievements of both the event’s keynote speaker and college namesake Max M. Fisher. A successful businessman, Fisher was a dedicated philanthropist and accomplished statesman, having served as an adviser to several presidents, prime ministers and world leaders.

The Fisher Prize has been awarded to world leaders as well as thought leaders who have dedicated themselves to tackling the world’s biggest problems.

Thomas L. Friedman honored with fifth Fisher Prize

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman was the fifth and most recent recipient of the Fisher Prize. Friedman received the award on Sept. 24, 2009, before a capacity crowd at Mershon Auditorium. The event celebrated the legacy of Max M. Fisher and the centennial commemoration of his birth.

After accepting the award, Friedman introduced his book to the audience as 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 Friedman said he was not trying to take a political position, he said the government is not functioning well and is unable to address many multigenerational problems, such as health care and the environment. Nonetheless, he said 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.”

The country, Friedman said, 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.”

The world's biggest threats, Friedman said, include supply and demand for energy and natural resources, governments' petroleum dictatorship, climate change, energy poverty and biodiversity loss. 

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," Friedman said. "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."

Past Fisher Prize recipients

  • Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev (2002)
  • Former President George H. W. Bush (2001)
  • Former President Gerald R. Ford (2000)
  • U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills (1998)