Front-row seat for Friedman’s Alabama visit leaves one in deep thought

Would you drive three hours to just  to see a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist?

That’s apparently what one couple did in order to attend tonight’s 7 p.m. lecture by New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman here at the University of Alabama’s Sellers Auditorium.

It was his second public event of the day as he spent time answering students’ questions in a student-only forum earlier this afternoon.

A handful of students came out tonight.  But, it was the folks off-campus, faculty and host of UA administrators who nearly filled the largest venue in the Bryant Conference Center.

I was pleased to be on the front row as Friedman laid out the major tenets of his latest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded.

I had not read the book.  So I found the presentation somewhat interesting, but not nearly as intriguing as his responses to some of the questions from those in the audience.

A Call to Students

One student asked Friedman what they could do to “redefine green”

“The idea you don’t have a single solar-panel roof on this campus is a travesty,” Friedman said.

He also challenged students to launch some type of intra-campus competition to conserve electricity.

Finally, he suggested students get politically involved.

“Get off of Facebook and into somebody’s face,” Friedman said. “Your world may be digitial but politics is still analog.”

A Call to America

Another attendee tonight queried Friedman about ways to build consensus on some of the issues he raised.

“I really think we need a serious third party, ” Friedman said as he described what he thinks America needs is  a “shock to the system.”

Friedman was not really impressed with the Tea Party, which he called the “Tea Kettle Party” because he perceived the loose confederation of groups as “letting off steam, but without an engine to take us anyplace.”

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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