What on earth was Thomas Friedman talking about?

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This tweet of mine has gone somewhat viral today, and a lot of people have asked me whether it's real, and, if so, what on earth Tom Friedman was saying.

The answer to the first question is that yes, it is absolutely real. Tom Friedman really did say this, and it really did elicit a hearty round of applause from the assembled plutocrats.


The answer to the second question is that I don't honestly know what Tom Friedman was talking about. But at least I can give you a bit of context. Tom Friedman was sitting on a panel at a lunch sponsored by Salesforce, which was moderated by Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff. Benioff had already explained to the audience that he is so in awe of Tom Friedman's intelligence that he felt Tom Friedman should not merely be the moderator of the discussion; he should be a fully-fledged panelist. So Benioff moderated, while Tom Friedman took his place alongside Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, musician and entrepreneur will.i.am, and LRN CEO Dov Seidman. (Who is Dov Seidman? What is LRN? Those, I'm afraid, are questions for another day.)

Tom Friedman had just explained that he is writing a book called "The World is Fast", a sequel to a previous book of his called "The World is Flat". Tom Friedman has already written the final chapter of this book, and the title of the final chapter of his new book is "Thank You for Being Late". Tom Friedman is not on Facebook, and he knows who his friends are in real life, and he often meets his friends for breakfast. Being important CEO types, Tom Friedman's friends are sometimes 15 minutes late for their breakfast meetings. And when that happens, Tom Friedman thanks his friend for being late, since his guest's tardiness has given him 15 minutes of peace and quiet, during which he can think peacefully. Hence the title of the chapter.

What has any of this got to do with the Arab Spring? That, I'm afraid, I'm going to have to leave as an exercise for the reader. Because I have no idea.

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