What the World is Watching – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

What the World is Watching

TIME International Editor Michael Elliott offered his refined global and political perspective on how the rest of the world is setting their gaze on the new Obama Administration before a standing-room-only crowd in the Geneva Room of the Warren Hunting Smith Library last week.

“Michael Elliott is the only person to have had senior level editorial positions in the three major news magazines – Time, Newsweek and The Economist making him uniquely poised to comment on the question of President Obama’s first 100 days in office,” said President Mark D. Gearan in his introduction of Elliott.

Elliott began his address by outlining propositions that face the world and shape the global perspective of the Obama presidency. He noted that the country is experiencing the biggest economic turmoil in the past 50 years, and cited the decadence, overconsumption, and lack of savings in the U.S. as the largest contributing factors to the global crisis. Despite this, he concluded, the election of Barack Obama sparked immense interest and excitement all over the world.

“If you put these propositions together,” he continued, “the world begins to form extremely high expectations of America for leadership. The nation’s actions under the newly-elected President Obama will be essential to solving the problems.”

Elliott went on to comment on the historical and current leadership role the United States has played in global, political and economic operations. Considering the crisis, he explained, the stage is set for America to rise up and lead the world in the same way the Truman Administration did in the years following World War II.

“American politicians of all stripes believe it to be axiomatic that the United States should lead the world,” he said. “However, despite the opportunity and expectations, there is an international current of thought that America’s reputation is beyond repair and that we can no longer be that leader.”

Elliott explained that after WWII, the U.S. was extremely prosperous and, as we produced 50 percent of the world’s output, we maintained dominance on cultural, political and economic levels. There was no need convincing the world of America’s swagger. “In recent years, there has been a dramatic shift of the economic center of gravity from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” said Elliott. “For America, the magic is gone.”

Citing that in Asia today, psychologically, citizens have a belief that their standard of life is improving, Elliott asserted that in China and Japan there has been a rapid development of pride and an attitude that demands respect and recognition from the rest of the world – and that this is a direct challenge to America’s level of dominance.

Elliott offered that Obama is not facing a crisis of leadership, but rather of ‘followership.’ “For the United States to gain back our role of leadership in the world, it is time to once again come up with new, better ideas,” said Elliott. “As an administration that tends to speak and act toward a different way of governing and bipartisanship in America, Obama will have to send the same message to the world that the only way to beat our problems is through partnership.”

“The rest of the world is not looking exclusively for a leader from President Obama; rather, a partner,” he concluded.  

In his role at TIME Magazine, Elliott oversees all aspects of TIME Asia, TIME Canada, TIME South Pacific and TIME EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa). Elliott was named editor of TIME International in April 2005 after spending a year as editor of TIME Asia. Before becoming international editor, he served as deputy managing editor of TIME from January 2006 through September 2007.

Before his President’s Forum lecture, Elliott was interviewed on camera by two students – John Heavey ’09 and Joshua Sargent ’10 in Professor Linda Robertson’s “Introduction to Social Documentaries” class. Elliott also had an opportunity to meet informally with students, faculty and staff over dinner.  

The next President’s Forum lecture will feature Tara Wall, The Washington Times‘ deputy editorial page editor and columnist. Wall’s talk will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24 in the Geneva Room. In addition to her role at The Washington Times, Wall also serves as a political contributor for CNN and CNN.com. A former newscaster and award-winning journalist, Wall has spent 17 years in the fields of communications, politics and journalism. Her columns, commentary and blogs focus on timely topics involving faith, race, politics and national policy.

The President’s Forum Series, established in the winter of 2000 by President Gearan, is designed to bring a variety of speakers to campus to share their knowledge and ideas with students, faculty, staff of the Colleges, as well as with interested community members.