Your mother probably once told you to finish everything on your dinner plate because in some third-world country, there's someone who doesn't have enough food to eat. But Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Thomas L. Friedman predicted a whole new type of motivation: Finish your dinner and go do your homework because one day you'd probably be competing with those people for a job.
Years after the author wrote about globalization, today's young Americans are seeing the residuals of the shift in labor coupled with economic downturn. As of last month, they're making no effort to stay passive as thousands — referred to as Occupy Wall Street — have participated in protests in New York's financial district, amounting to arrests and frustration over corporate greed and staggering unemployment, and sprouting more gatherings across the country.
Friedman recently stopped by MTV News to discuss his new book, "That Used to Be Us," and weigh in on the protests.
"Movements are effective when they have a clear message, a clear agenda, leadership, and then translate that into political action," the New York Times columnist said. "There's still not a clear message yet, but there's a deep sense of injustice."
While the rallies have yet to offer an organized voice, Friedman doesn't undermine the importance of their potential. "This is where the civil rights movements, this is where the women's rights women came from. People ultimately got to get out in the street." Unlike past eras, however, social media has been an integral component of the protests, which Friedman says just won't cut it. "Get out of Facebook and get into someone's face, ultimately is the only way you really get change."
Competition might be fierce in a global market, but to stay ahead, Friedman encourages young Americans to learn from its own past. "China, I hope they succeed. India, I hope they succeed. But we don't have anything to learn from them. We need to go back and reread our own history books. The country we need to rediscover is America." In doing so, the economist reflects on the foundations that originally allowed the U.S. to thrive.
"We didn't get here by accident, we got here because we had the greatest public-private partnership in the world, education, infrastructure, immigration, rules and government-funded research."
As the protests continue to gain momentum, Friedman calls on young people to step up and take the challenge. "My generation, the baby boomers, we've done some very good things. We've also eaten through a lot of resources. Your generation, the MTV generation, they need to be the regeneration."