As I did not grow up in Atlanta, my only knowledge of Andrew Young before Dec. 13 was from the street in downtown Atlanta – “Andrew Young International Boulevard.” Actually I was surprised the man was still alive!
To have a major street named in your honor must mean you are someone important.
It turns out he is.
A former mayor of Atlanta, a leader in the civil rights movement in the ‘60s, a political confidant of President Jimmy Carter and ambassador to the United Nations, Young has seen a lot during his time.
He spoke to the members of the Roswell Rotary at their weekly lunch meeting about the state of the country and highlights from his past. Below are some of the high points from this learned man.
“We would not have had the Arab Spring without Twitter and cellphones.”
The Arab Spring began in Tunisia after a man set himself on fire after he was denied a work permit. While the people seeing that might have reacted with shock, Young pointed out the people pulled out their cellphones, took pictures and video of the self immolation and posted them on the Internet, allowing the whole world to see it.
“People all around the world saw that and said, ‘we’re tired too,’” he said.
Young highlighted how this wired world has changed the way we look at news and the way news travels. Now everyone can be a reporter when news happens.
Take the Sept. 11 attacks. Due to New Yorkers having many recording devices, I wouldn’t be surprised if the attacks were one of the most filmed events in history. Almost every angle was covered by someone.
If the film “V for Vendetta” had any one idea behind it, it was that, sometimes, all a revolution needs is a spark. For the Arab Spring, that spark was one man’s frustration put on YouTube.
What does he think about treaties that subjugate the U.S. to other nations?
Being a proud and strong nation, I’m sure most Americans think the country should never place itself under the yoke of another – and in many cases, rightly so. However, Young said not always.
“There are times it’s in our interest,” Young said.
His case in point was the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Because America is under the same rules as every other nation, collective efforts work when against nations such as Iran, who flout the rules.
And speaking of Iran...
What does he think of the fall of the shah in Iran and the Islamic Revolution?
“We did not push the shah on human rights. We probably deserve some of the blame.”
Young said many of the intelligence agencies of the time told President Carter the shah was safe and secure on his throne. It turned out they were very wrong and one of our most ardent enemies was created because of our failure to heed those such as Young who were giving warnings.
What about Israel?
Reading up on Young, I learned that the Israel-Palestine problem was his downfall, when the U.N. created a report to support a Palestinian state. In an effort to delay the report’s release, Young met with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Unfortunately, news of this meeting leaked and Israel was furious.
Carter had promised his administration would have no official meetings with the terrorists. Young was out of office within a month.
His take on the conflict was to boil it down to an economic issue. People who want for nothing are less likely to take up arms.
Instead of picking on Israel for every move they make, he suggests to begin helping the Palestinians make their lives better.
“No nations with McDonald’s have ever gone to war with each other,” he said. “That’s a good rule.”