I'm writing from middle America, where I was raised. Every time I'm here, I'm reminded about the basic goodness of the folks here. There are things that drive me insane about the midwest, but overall, most you meet are, as they say here, "good people." (Usage: "He's good people.")
I'm also reminded about the differences in the way of life between here and the west coast, where I live now. Mostly it's in the area of perspective on life. It's much different.
Then I read posts like this and this from my domain industry colleague Susan Crawford, one of the more insightful people of this planet, and I'm reminded of the even bigger gulf in thought between the United States and the rest of the world. The thesis of each is that we're not doing enough in the United States to prepare ourselves for continued leadership and prosperity. Susan quotes Thomas Friedman, one of the authorities on this subject:
In a globally integrated economy, our workers will get paid a premium only if they or their firms offer a uniquely innovative product or service, which demands a skilled and creative labor force to conceive, design, market and manufacture — and a labor force that is constantly able to keep learning. We can’t go on lagging other major economies in every math/science/reading test and every ranking of Internet penetration and think that we’re going to field a work force able to command premium wages. Freedom, without rigor and competence, will take us only so far.
Very true, almost frighteningly so. As Friedman wrote, in India, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In the U.S., Britney Spears is Britney Spears. They're hungier than we are, and we're falling behind.
As a parent, I have to figure out how to prepare my children. One way must include the value of perspective -- that so many others live so differently than we, and in some ways, better. And that more than was the case for me, the world is out for their lunch and will take it away if they're not prepared. Language, skills, and desire are going to be necessary like they never were before.