Bai on Obama and race

Many came to our Wednesday forum here in DC looking forward to hearing from Matt Bai. But on Wednesday morning, Matt and his wife welcomed their 2nd child into the world, a daughter, and he ended up missing our conference.

For those disapointed in not hearing from Matt you can read an essay he somehow wrote this week that will be appearing in this Sunday's Times Magazine, What's the real racial divide? While I don't know that that I agree with all of it, it is an interesting take on how race is playing out in the Democratic campaign so far.

This is a subject we have written and talked about a great deal at NDN in recent months. For more read my recent essay, On Obama. Race and the End of the Southern Strategy.

Shai Agassi and the Transformation of Transportation

One of the speakers at our Moment of Transformation day-long conference on March 12th will be a high tech entrepreneur with no experience in politics. But, like everyone else at this event, he is in the transformation business. And political people will find it useful to listen closely to what he has to say.

Shai Agassi is trying to transform the $1.5 trillion-a-year auto industry and eventually make the $1.5 trillion-a-year gasoline industry obsolete. He is the CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up called Better Place that is trying to jumpstart the electric car business with an approach to building an infrastructure for swapping out batteries in a practical, quick way.

Agassi is no wide-eyed dreamer. He was one of a handful of top executives at SAP, the third-largest software company in the world, and he barely was edged out for the top CEO position in 2007. When he did not get that job, he left to become the founder and CEO of Better Place. Since then he has successfully lobbied the Israeli government to back his plan to quickly scale up electric cars in Israel. He has raised more than $200 million in venture capital, and found a auto-company partner in Renault Nissan. This plan is for real. For the detaield version of this amazing tale, check out a recent BusinessWeek story.

Agassi will be speaking late in the morning on March 12th about his big, bold idea and what it takes to think and act in a transformative manner. With all the talk about change and even transformative change coming to politics, we will be stepping back and talking about just how transformative the changes could be in America and the world as we come off this historic election. Agassi will be just one of about a dozen people talking about the transformations happening in their fields of expertise.

We hope that you will come and join many others in giving your insights into what kind of change we will see coming in the months and years ahead. Spread the word about this free, open event among your friends and colleagues. And then make sure you come and RSVP. Thanks .

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

Another Transformation: The New Geopolitics of China and India Rising

Any talk about transformative change in the world today must at some point look at the rise of China. The rise of China, along with the rise of India and Asia in general, is fundamentally restructuring the geopolitics of the early 21st century. So in our Moment of Transformation gathering on March 12, we will be looking hard at the emergence of China and its impact on US foreign policy. And we are extremely fortunate to have Orville Schell to help guide us.

Orville Schell deeply understands China and has been studying it since the 1960s as a student, academic, journalist and author. He is the author of no less than 9 books on China, including Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China's Leaders. His books are a nice blend of deep thinking that can be found in academic writing (he has a Ph.D. in Chinese History from UC Berkeley) with a contemporary understanding of a working journalist (for example, he covered the war in Indochina in the 1960s).

It is no wonder that when the New York-based Asia Society was looking for a director to head its new Center on U.S.-China Relations, they wooed Orville. To get a sense of Schell see his masterful interview of Henry Kissinger at the inauguration of the Center in New York about a year ago.

When he joined the Asia Society, Schell had just completed a decade as Dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he helped move the program into the new multimedia digital age. Schell was known for opening the school to a variety of non-traditional teachers, often working journalists and writers who would give open lectures and teach classes for a time. He did much to move the school towards preparing students to be fluent in the ways of video and the web.

Schell now gets to China quite a bit and has done much thinking about how America should deal with this emerging giant. Come to the Transformation event to see him and a great lineup of people with similar stature in different fields. Just be sure to RSVP.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

A Different Kind of Event for a Transformational Moment

We’ve been talking a lot on the blog and our websites about our upcoming event called “A Moment of Transformation.” This is not a typical Washington DC event, but more like a new breed of conference that is appearing in the private sector. These conferences focus on presenting big ideas from many disciplines in a memorable way. They seek to bring together a remarkable collection of speakers and leave much room for discussion and networking.

The conference that set the standard in this realm is the TED conference, which originally stood for Technology, Entertainment and Design conference, but now is just known as TED. This week TED is being held in Monterrey California, on the Pacific coast, with a simulcast linked to Aspen, Colorado. You can get a good background of that conference here, or just watch video of past events off the TED site.

TED pretty much does not deal with politics or government. However, our Transformative Moment event does. (TED also costs $6,000 and our event is free.) We have pulled together a terrific group of speakers who will talk bout the transformations happening in their fields with an eye towards how they might impact politics and government. In the run-up to the conference in a couple weeks, we will highlight some of them, starting with Amory Lovins.

Amory Lovins has blazed a trail over the last couple decades in understanding how to build a sustainable economy with clean energy in very practical ways. He was one of the coauthors of the seminal book Natural Capitalism, which talked about how to use market mechanisms to reward energy efficient, sustainable behavior. He then coauthored the extremely practical Factor Four, which focused on very specific ways to improve energy efficiency by a factor of four. His latest book is Winning the Oil Endgame, which carries on in this tradition, looking at how to overcome our oil transportation hurtles.

Amory is cofounder and now Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit looking at a broad range of issues having to do with sustainability. RMI was way ahead of the curve on talking about sustainability, starting in 1982. They now have a staff of about 40 people based in Colorado.

Amory has been given many awards, including a coveted MacArthur Fellowship, known as a genius grant. I got to know him through his involvement in Global Business Network, a pioneering think tank on the future. He was one of their 120 remarkable people who helped many private sector companies to understand the big trends shaping the future. Amory is sure to do the same for us at the March 12th event. I hope you come and see.

In the meantime check out a two-minute video below of Amory at TED where he discusses how we can reduce oil dependency.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute

America and race, 2008

Lots of news this Sunday morning, but we zero in on two important pieces - Frank Rich's Sunday column and a major Carolyn Lochhead essay in the SF Chronicle. Both take a look at theme we've written about a great deal - how our changing demography and Barack Obama's candidacy is starting a very important conversation about the changing nature of race in 21st century America.

From Lochhead's excellent article:

It seems odd that during a time of war and terrorism, a mortgage crisis, health care worries and a teetering economy, that race would assert itself. Last summer, the Democratic contest seemed destined to focus on Iraq. Instead, it has become a lesson in demography.

With few domestic policy differences separating Clinton and Obama, the patterns that have emerged revolve around age, income, education and the ethnic and racial composition of various voting blocs. Clinton has drawn her highest support from white women, Latinos, seniors and lower-income workers. Obama's inroads among each of those groups in Virginia recast the contest and now threaten Clinton's last hopes in Texas and Ohio on March 4.

"That race has become an issue in 2008 should come as no surprise in light of enormous immigration-driven population changes," said Simon Rosenberg...

"The country is undergoing its most profound demographic change in its history," Rosenberg said. "When I was born, the country was 89 percent white and 10.5 percent African American and 0.5 percent 'other.' Today, it's 66 percent white and 33 percent minority. We've seen a tripling of the minority population in the United States in a very short period of time."

Race began percolating as an issue most recently with the 2005 immigration debate, he said, and continued in that guise through the early GOP primaries, where he contends Republicans "demonized" Latinos. "For any civil society, that kind of transition is going to be hard."

Thanks to the fast-growing Latino vote, many analysts believe 2008 will be the year when a presidential election will be decided for the first time by minorities. Some contend that milestone was already passed when President Bush drew more than 40 percent of Latino voters in 2004, providing his victory margins in closely contested Southwestern states...

Frank Rich's op-ed covers similar terrain but in his typical penetrating fashion, talking about the GOP's embrace of its race-based Southern Strategy and this year's all white, very 20th century Presidential field. In the piece he refers to a new book, Millennial Makeover, by our good friend Morley Winograd, who is the one who introduced NDN and NPI to the importance of the coming Millennial generation.

For more on this whole subject of the changing demographics of America, come see Morley and his partner Mike Hais at our upcoming forum, A Moment of Transformation?, in Washington, DC on March 12th. It is free, open to the public and will be full of big ideas and powerful leaders. I hope you will join us.

You can find more on our thinking about our changing people in our recent magazine piece, The 50 Year Strategy, in our recent report Hispanics Rising and in a new essay, On Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy and in our recent study, The Progressive Politics of the Millennial Generation.

And I will be talking directly about all this at a public NDN forum on the 2008 elections this Wednesday, Feb 20th, in Washington, DC. This one begins at 12:30pm, is open to the public and also features the ever interesting Joe Trippi and Amy Walter, the editor in chief of the Hotline. I hope you will join us for this one too.

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