Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Chicago Ideas Week Day 1

My reactions to some of the Chicago Ideas Week speakers I saw today:

Suze Orman

The Idea: Stop being a child and take charge of your personal finances today!  ALSO: Credit rating should increase if you _don't_ borrow for large purchases.

Best Quote: "Get involved in your own life!"

Worst Quote: "There is nothing wrong on any level with the love of money."

Conclusions: She is an incredibly selfish person who has become successful by telling people what they want to hear.  A charlatan of the worst kind: one who believes her own BS.

What it says about America: We are deeply troubled with our love of money, but are ashamed of that and want someone to tell us it's okay to pursue a materialistic life.  America responds well to parental chiding.

Michelle Rhee

The Idea: Public school accountability. (She's the Washington DC reformer person who came from Teach for America and was featured in Waiting for Superman)

Best Quote: "Teaching is the hardest and most rewarding job on the planet"

Worst Quote: "I use my own two girls as an example: they suck at soccer"

Conclusions: A fairly good speaker and energetic reformer, her "common sense" approach is hard to argue with. I don't agree with her policy positions but she does a great job of getting people to think about the real issues in American education: the opportunity gap.

What it says about America: You can get away with advocating policies that don't adress the real issues as long as you announce those real issues passionately and have a pretty face (see Obama).

Gary White

The Idea: Bringing clean tap water to the worlds 1 billion poorest can be profitable.

Best Quote: "People think the solution to the water crisis will be some 'magic bullet' filter or pump or something, but really we've had the technology for a hundred years [...] There's no reason we can't solve this in our lifetime"

Worst Quote: "... offer a loan at 118%, which is a little exploitative but [at least they can now drink]"

Conclusions: A man offering real common sense. Water is an incredibly simple thing to fix, and potentially very profitable. The free market is supposed to fix this and yet hasn't. Why?

What it says about America: Good ideas that are easy to do are often the hardest to get support for. Charity efforts are more successful if they have sex appeal. Unfortunately problems that have low-tech solutions are generally not sexy.

Daisy Kahn

The Idea: Advocate for Muslims in America.

Best Quote: "If you must compete: compete in goodness"

Worst Quote: "Terrorists use iPhones!"

Conclusions: Muslims are still in a really tough spot in America still. As technology shrinks the world, there is hope that our view of the Muslim world will progressively mature.

What it says about America: We still need an other to fear. Will this need ever go away?

Rob Bell

(Founder of Mars Hill Bible Church)

The Idea: Fear is the root of evil.

Best Quote: "People live with this quiet despair" that there is a big, scary bad world out there and that we, cozy as we are, are powerless.

Better Quote: "Don't deceive yourself with why you don't do the things you think you should"

Worst Quote: "I don't like to tell people about what I'm working on until I've done it" (still not bad: he's a great speaker)

Conclusions: An amazing public speaker who has thought deeply about life and what is wrong with our thinking these days.  I would join his church!

What it says about America: He's actually Canadian, which explains a lot actually =\


Correction:  Rob Bell is actually from Michigan.

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