I look at that list of so-called immigrants and see the names: Linda, Alice, Angela, Lynnelle, Kevin, Benjamin, Jane, Katheryn, Paul, David, Elisa, Peter, and John Vincenzo, and I think to myself that we're looking not at new immigrant families suddenly storming the intellectual frontiers of America but second, third, or fourth generation American families of Asian descent who attend public schools getting the attention they richly deserve.
Linda Zhou, Alice Wei Zhao, Lori Ying, Angela Yu-Yun Yeung, Lynnelle Lin Ye, Kevin Young Xu, Benjamin Chang Sun, Jane Yoonhae Suh, Katheryn Cheng Shi, Sunanda Sharma, Sarine Gayaneh Shahmirian, Arjun Ranganath Puranik, Raman Venkat Nelakant, Akhil Mathew, Paul Masih Das, David Chienyun Liu, Elisa Bisi Lin, Yifan Li, Lanair Amaad Lett, Ruoyi Jiang, Otana Agape Jakpor, Peter Danming Hu, Yale Wang Fan, Yuval Yaacov Calev, Levent Alpoge, John Vincenzo Capodilupo and Namrata Anand.
No, sorry, it was not a dinner of the China-India Friendship League. Give up?
O.K. All these kids are American high school students. They were the majority of the 40 finalists in the 2010 Intel Science Talent Search, which, through a national contest, identifies and honors the top math and science high school students in America, based on their solutions to scientific problems. The awards dinner was Tuesday, and, as you can see from the above list, most finalists hailed from immigrant families, largely from Asia.
Indeed, if you need any more convincing about the virtues of immigration, just come to the Intel science finals. I am a pro-immigration fanatic. I think keeping a constant flow of legal immigrants into our country — whether they wear blue collars or lab coats — is the key to keeping us ahead of China. Because when you mix all of these energetic, high-aspiring people with a democratic system and free markets, magic happens. If we hope to keep that magic, we need immigration reform that guarantees that we will always attract and retain, in an orderly fashion, the world’s first-round aspirational and intellectual draft choices.
This isn’t complicated. In today’s wired world, the most important economic competition is no longer between countries or companies. The most important economic competition is actually between you and your own imagination. Because what your kids imagine, they can now act on farther, faster, cheaper than ever before — as individuals. Today, just about everything is becoming a commodity, except imagination, except the ability to spark new ideas.
If I just have the spark of an idea now, I can get a designer in Taiwan to design it. I can get a factory in China to produce a prototype. I can get a factory in Vietnam to mass manufacture it. I can use Amazon.com to handle fulfillment. I can use freelancer.com to find someone to do my logo and manage by backroom. And I can do all this at incredibly low prices. The one thing that is not a commodity and never will be is that spark of an idea. And this Intel dinner was all about our best sparklers.
Friedman is never gracious enough to tip his hat to the public schools that nurture this talent.
And by emphasizing the last names of the winners strictly in Asian and Indian terms, he asserts a racist and dangerous propensity for disregarding the Italians, Irish, Poles, Israelis, and the multitude of other legal immigrants who ARE JUST AS SMART, JUST AS HARD-WORKING, and what have you. Friedman's monologue is as anti-American as I can imagine.
What this contest demonstrates is the success of America's melting pot of talent, not the cherry picking of talent from overseas. He misses that point. ALL. THE. TIME.
But that's not his biggest blind spot. There is no such thing as competition in an asymmetric contest. Magic isn't whats happening in his delusional celebration of 'free' markets. Economic chaos is what's happening. Ecological disaster is happening. Child labor is happening. American jobs are being plundered and our nation in depression is what's happening.
How about putting reality into your imagination once in a while, Mr. Friedman?
Oh, btw, readers will note that the winner did not come from that list. Just sayin'