Friedman, Thomas L. 1953–
Friedman, Thomas L. 1953–
(Thomas Loren Friedman)
PERSONAL: Born July 20, 1953, in Minneapolis, MN; son of Harold Abraham and Margaret (a retired real estate broker; maiden name, Philips) Friedman; married Ann Louise Bucksbaum (a copyeditor), November 23, 1978; children: two daughters. Education: Brandeis University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1975; St. Antony's, Oxford, M.Phil., 1978. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Golf.
ADDRESSES: Home—Bethesda, MD. Office—New York Times, 1627 I St. NW, Washington, DC 20006.
CAREER: United Press International, correspondent in London, England, 1978–79, and Beirut, Lebanon, 1979–81; New York Times, New York, NY, business reporter, 1981–82, Beirut bureau chief, 1982–84, Jerusalem bureau chief, 1984–89, Washington, DC, bureau chief and diplomatic correspondent, 1989–95, foreign affairs columnist, 1995–. Former visiting professor, Harvard University. Has also hosted television documentaries for the Discovery Channel.
MEMBER: Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Overseas Press Club award, 1980, for best business reporting from abroad; George Polk Award, 1982, and Pulitzer Prize and Livingston Award for Young Journalists, both 1983, all for coverage of war in Lebanon; Page One Award, New York Newspaper Guild, 1984; Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr., Memorial Award in Marine Corps History, Marine Corps Historical Foundation, 1985; Pulitzer Prize, 1988, for coverage of Israel; National Book Award, National Book Foundation, 1989, for From Beirut to Jerusalem; Overseas Press Club award, 2000, for The Lexus and the Olive Tree; Pulitzer Prize, 2002, for commentary; New Israel Fund Award for Outstanding Reporting from Israel. Recipient of several honorary degrees.
(Author of text) War Torn (photo collection), Pantheon (New York, NY), 1984.
From Beirut to Jerusalem, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Richard Rhodes) Writing in an Era of Conflict, Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1990.
Israel, a Photobiography: The First Fifty Years, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 1999.
Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11, Farrar, Strauss (New York, NY), 2002.
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to New York Times Magazine. From Beirut to Jerusalem has been translated into more than two dozen languages.
SIDELIGHTS: Having survived five years of reporting from one of the most war-torn areas of the Middle East, Thomas L. Friedman decided he had had enough when he awoke one night in 1984 to find his Beirut neighborhood under mortar attack. The constant warfare had become so commonplace that it was no longer even considered news, so he decided to return home. From his assignment in Beirut, Friedman moved on to a posting in Jerusalem, where he remained until 1989. Two Pulitzer Prizes and innumerable war stories later, Friedman returned to the United States as chief diplomatic correspondent for the Washington, DC, bureau of the New York Times.
From Beirut to Jerusalem represents the culmination of Friedman's experiences covering the Middle East, with glimpses of his youth and background. As a Jewish American, Friedman brings an enlightening perspective to discussions of Middle Eastern affairs, according to reviewers. For example, Barbara Newman observed in the Los Angeles Times Book Review that Friedman "has written an intimate portrait of his ten years of reporting in the Middle East, chronicling his change from awestruck lover of Israel to outspoken critic." Friedman's infatuation with Israel began at the age of fifteen, when he visited the country with his parents. In the introductory chapter of From Beirut to Jerusalem, he relates an anecdote from his high school days: "I was insufferable. When the Syrians arrested thirteen Jews in Damascus, I wore a button that said, 'Free the Damascus 13,' which most of my classmates thought referred to an underground offshoot of the Chicago 7."
From Beirut to Jerusalem is divided into two sections consisting of discussions of Beirut and of Jerusalem, corresponding to Friedman's assignments first as Beirut bureau chief and later as Jerusalem bureau chief for the New York Times. "Mr. Friedman is different when writing of Beirut than he is when writing of Jerusalem," commented Roger Rosenblatt in the New York Times Book Review. "When he arrives in Jerusalem for the second stage of his assignment, and for the second half of the book, he becomes the political and historical analyst. Reporting from Beirut, he is, for the most part, Pandemonium's correspondent, detailing scenes of pathos and hysteria." Friedman concluded in From Beirut to Jerusalem that the situation in the Middle East is not hopeless, but will require the intervention of the United States for its resolution. "Only a real friend tells you the truth about yourself," he wrote. "An American friend has to help jar these people out of their fantasies by constantly holding up before their eyes the mirror of reality."
Rosenblatt praised Friedman's treatment of his subject. "For a writer to appear evenhanded discussing the Jews and Arabs in this situation takes little more than giving each equal space in print and ascribing as many errors and atrocities to one as to the other. Mr. Friedman, who leaves no question as to the ardor of his Jewishness, is more interestingly evenhanded in that he rarely makes judgments on specific actions. When he delivers opinions, the judgments are so cosmic and melancholy that the question of fairness does not arise. First and last he is a reporter." Conor Cruise O'Brien asserted in the New York Times, "I warmly recommend From Beirut to Jerusalem. But I do have some reservations. Mr. Friedman is splendid when he is interpreting events of which he has firsthand experience. His grasp on the previous history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is not so sure." O'Brien cited a section of the book that documents Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat's efforts to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel only after waging war in 1973. O'Brien contended that Sadat made an unreciprocated attempt for peace in 1971. "Most Israelis have forgotten that episode," O'Brien said. "It is odd that so staunch a critic of Israel as Mr. Friedman should share in that Israeli amnesia."
Over the years, Friedman has expanded his focus to encompass not only the Middle East, but also the entire world. The hotly debated subject of globalization formed the thesis for his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization. In it, he writes that, because it is driven by technology, globalization is inevitable; and he discusses the changes, some of them painful, that technology brings as the world becomes smaller and more interconnected. "We all increasingly know how each other lives. And when we all increasingly know how each other lives, we all start to demand the same things. And when we don't get them, we get mad…. Oh, in globalization you get mad!" He further sees globalization and access to technology as empowering the individual.
Partly because of its timeliness and partly because of its controversial topic, The Lexus and the Olive Tree received massive critical attention from the business, political, and technology communities, as well as the literary community. New York Times critic Richard Eder called it "a spirited and imaginative exploration of our new order of economic globalization." Robert A. Simons went further in his Appraisal evaluation of the book, stating in a 2004 review: "The book was written before [the terrorist attacks of] 9/11, but the basic premise of the book is robust enough to withstand the shock of that terrorist calamity to the international capital markets. In some ways, Friedman foresaw and characterized the possibility of a major terrorist event (backlash) and its implications."
The Lexus and the Olive Tree earned Friedman another Overseas Press Club award in 2000, and in 2002 he won his third Pulitzer Prize. By this time, Friedman had gained the status of a guru on not only the Middle East but also international trends as a whole. He added to this reputation with his 2005 book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. A kind of follow-up to his previous book in which he discussed globalization, in The World Is Flat he declares that the Internet is effectively creating a "flat" economy in which the location of workers is irrelevant so long as they have access to computers and the World Wide Web. An added caveat is that workers need to be technologically skilled, a need that is becoming a chronic problem in the United States. The exponential growth of this phenomenon since the 1990s has made such things possible as call centers located in India that serve customers in real time online in the United States. While such a dramatic change in the global economy will no doubt result in growing pains for America as some developing countries abroad take advantage of the technology, overall Friedman sees this as a positive development. "In the Friedman worldview," related Justin Fox in a Fortune article, "revolutions are mostly good things, so The World Is Flat is imbued with a winning optimism." "This is a very important and very readable book," concluded Monica Bay Law Technology News, "that brings to life how our world is changing dramatically through technology."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Friedman, Thomas L., From Beirut to Jerusalem, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1989.
Friedman, Thomas L., The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, Thorndike Press (Thorndike, ME), 1999.
Appraisal, January, 2004, Robert A. Simons, review of The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, p. 80.
Fortune, September 19, 2005, Justin Fox, "Rockin' in the Flat World: He Dazzles Crowds. He Brews Conventional Wisdom. He Charms CEOs. And He Drives Some People Crazy. Meet Tom Friedman, the Oracle of the Global Century," p. 154.
Law Technology News, July, 2005, Monica Bay, "Technology & the Global Village."
New York Times, July 6, 1989, Conor Cruise O'Brien, review of From Beirut to Jerusalem; April 26, 1999, Richard Eder, "The Global Village Is Here. Resist at Your Peril," review of The Lexus and the Olive Tree, p. E8.
New York Times Book Review, July 9, 1989, Roger Rosenblatt, review of From Beirut to Jerusalem, pp. 1, 26.
Thomas L. Friedman Home Page, http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/ (January 10, 2006).