Thomas Friedman Tells Worcester, “We Need Innovation”

Published on Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Update, May 1: Thomas Friedman cited Worcester, and his visit to Becker College, when he was asked for examples of things that give him hope for the direction that America is headed in. Listen to his May 1 interview on WGBH’s Innovation Hub.

View a photo gallery and feedback from the April 8 event.

Thomas L. Friedman—New York Times columnist, author of six best-selling books, and recipient of three Pulitzer prizes—spoke to more than 1,100 guests at the inaugural Becker College Presidential Speaker Series at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall on the evening of Tuesday, April 8. Fallon Health served as the event sponsor.

“I am an optimist about America, because there are places like Worcester that are innovating,” Friedman said. “We need a new social contract that includes innovation, entrepreneurship, and capitalism.”

He emphasized how the dominant American industry has moved away from manufacturing jobs that workers kept for 30 years to a new workplace where people must invent their own jobs. “Employers will no longer pay you for what you know, but only for what you can do with what you know.”

Friedman, who covered trends resulting from our newly hyperconnected world in his book, The World Is Flat, described developments one might think of as years away, such as 3G service at the top of Mt. Everest, landscaping done by robots, rental car reservations taken by artificial intelligence, the milking of 200 cows by two dairy farm employees, and one Las Vegas casino worker running 20 roulette screens.

“This is happening now,” he said.

“Drawing thought leaders to the community to serve as catalysts for positive change and to shine a light on the path to the future is a responsibility of higher education,” said Becker College President Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D. “Mr. Friedman has not only inspired the nation and our community, but he has inspired Becker College to embody the art of possibility thinking that will create a generation of young people who are truly world ready.” Dr. Johnson added that Becker invited Friedman to Worcester for his future-oriented viewpoint and sophisticated analysis of complex issues facing the modern world.

The college has made a number of changes that align with this thinking: adding several new academic programs, strengthening existing programs, and rebuilding general education curriculum. Courses are being developed within the veterinary science program that deal with global disease outbreaks in real time, requiring students to decipher not only the medical challenge, but the social, environmental, and cultural aspects of the solution. The Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI), located at Becker College, is partnering with Becker interactive media faculty for a course in regenerating previously unsuccessful video game code. As part of a comprehensive Global Citizenship initiative, Becker also recently opened a new Center for Global Citizenship that offers programs, events, and opportunities for global awareness and understanding.

Sponsorship proceeds for this event will be directed to the John J. Dorsey Sr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides merit scholarships for students to attend Becker College. Dorsey, who started his career as an attorney and then dedicated more than 40 years to education, was an esteemed Professor of Legal Studies at Becker until his passing.

The series, presented by the Becker College Office of the President, advances the College’s mission of preparing world ready graduates who are prepared to thrive, contribute to, and lead in a global society.