As we observe all the continuing chaos happening around the world, and the call for military action in places like Syria, many Americans are understandably asking what the real role for America should be in the world today. People are particularly sensitive, even cynical (understandably so), in backdrop of the Iraq War, and our incursions in Afghanistan.
There are two problems with this -- America (and everyone else) increasingly has decreasing levels of surplus funds for things like all out war. This is of course in addition to the moral issues.
The second problem is that in most cases around the world (and even here at home), the real problem is not political, racial or religious crisis, but an economic crisis.
The problem in Tunisia was economic first. The man who famously set himself on fire did so because the authorities took away his cart business, and with it his ability to provide for his family. The threat was not political or religious, but economic.
The problem in Egypt, at bottom, is economic. Approximately 30 million individuals were citizens when Mubarak first took office, and more than 90 million are citizens today. Economic opportunity has not been either fair or uniform in its growth over the decades since.
The problem in the Middle East is economic. You will soon have 60 percent of the population under the age of 25, and most with no clear economic path forward. Some research reports suggest that the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) will need upwards of 100 million jobs by 2020 alone.
The problem in South Africa is economic. In a nation of 50 million citizens, less than 10 million are taxpayers. Sure there are racial and other issues. but the main problem is there simply are not enough jobs and economic opportunity to go around.
The problem in Nigeria is economic. The most populous nation in Africa, with upwards of 150 million citizens, has more brainpower, ambition and poverty than it has jobs or a rational economic plan to create them.
The problem in Europe today is economic. The problem is not the so-called immigrant or migrant population, but the fact there are increasing populations, and a decreasing level of jobs and opportunity for all. And it is this challenge, that then stokes racial tension, and societal strike and stress.
America, as the sole super power in the world today, does in fact have a responsibility unlike any other nation leader. Additionally, helping to insure that anarchy does not break out in the world is in our own enlightened self-interest. We are a global leader, in a global world, and we are all now inter-connected and inter-related. That said, there is a better, even smarter way to lead than bombs and bullets. I am talking about creating jobs, aspirations and opportunity.
America may need to continue on some level as the chief global police officer, but we should increasingly take the lead as the world's chief global opportunity officer. America needs to export the one thing we have done better than any other nation in more than 200 years, and that is nurturing entrepreneurs, small business owners, self-employment projects, aspiration, opportunity and economic energy. Remember, every big business was once a small one, and while 8 percent of all jobs in America come from government, 92 percent of all jobs in the largest economy in the world come from the private sector.
In the 20th century of civil rights justice, the definition of freedom was arguably the right to vote. In many places, it still is.
But arguably in the 21st century of silver rights empowerment, the new definition of freedom is more and more what I call self-determination.
America as the world's Chief Global Opportunity Officer.
John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, author, advisor, and one of the nation's most recognized empowerment leader. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, The Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S.